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Reporters demand probe into Far East police brutality

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VLADIVOSTOK, December 23 (RIA Novosti) - The association of journalists in Russia's Far East has demanded a probe into the brutal treatment of reporters by police during protests against car tariff hikes in the Pacific city of Vladivostok at the weekend.

The association in the Primorye Territory said more than 10 Russian and foreign reporters were briefly arrested in the city, some of them were beaten and their equipment was damaged. Local police said they had arrested people taking part in unauthorized rallies.

Police said on Monday 61 people had been arrested during protests against increases in car import duties. Protests, that swept cities across Russia, were especially intense in Vladivostok, where demonstrators called for the government's resignation. Riot police dispersed protesters using batons.

"We condemn the serious violation of the Constitution and the use of force against journalists who were performing their professional duties," the association said in a statement.

Local prosecutors said on Tuesday they had launched an inquiry into the treatment of reporters by riot police.

On Monday, the head of Russia's Journalists Union, Vsevolod Bogdanov, said the union planned to discuss the police conduct with parliament.

The government's decision to raise import duties on used foreign cars and trucks by 50% and 100% respectively, designed to protect domestic producers and foreign companies involved in car production in Russia amid the global financial crisis, will come into force on January 12.

Some analysts argue the measure is unlikely to spur demand for Russian-made cars, but will hit consumers, who prefer foreign models. Some 90% of vehicles in Russia's Far East are second-hand Japanese cars.

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