Regular rallies in support of Article 31 of the Russian constitution, which guarantees the right to free assembly, were held in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the traditional manner on Thursday: sparsely attended with opposition leaders and many of the demonstrators being detained.
About 100 people came to an unsanctioned rally on Moscow's downtown Triumfalnaya Square. Fifty-four, including leader of the Other Russia radical movement Eduard Limonov and Left Front representative Konstantin Kosyakin, were detained, Moscow police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said.
A sanctioned meeting was simultaneously held a few hundred meters down Moscow' main Tverskaya Street at Pushkin Square. It was opened by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Lev Ponomaryov, the leader of the For Human Rights movement. About 350 people and 150 journalists came and no arrests were made.
Until the city began allowing - on limited terms that Limonov and others objected to - the Article 31 demonstrations, the human rights and political groups protested side by side. Alexeyeva said she now plans to hold separate sanctioned meetings in support of free and fair elections, although no there has been no decision on a date or venue for the new rallies.
In St. Petersburg, Solidarity movement head Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, who leads the People's Freedom Party, were arrested during an unsanctioned meeting. About 100 of the 300 people who came to the meeting were detained along with the leaders.
In another protest, about 10 people were arrested in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, local police spokesperson Irina Zaytseva said.
ST. PETERSBURG, March 31 (RIA Novosti)