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    Russian opposition to hold rally on July 31 despite ban

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    Russia's opposition groups will come out on a March of Dissent rally in central Moscow on July 31 in defiance of a city government ban, a leading human rights activist said on Monday.

    Russia's opposition groups will come out on a March of Dissent rally in central Moscow on July 31 in defiance of a city government ban, a leading human rights activist said on Monday.

    Last week, city officials authorized a bike festival on downtown Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square from July 30 through August 1 in what many see as a deliberate move to snub the opposition's plans.

    "I had a telephone call today and was told that we were denied," Lyudmila Alexeyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group said.

    "I didn't ask why, it's not interesting. We were offered to stage a rally in other places but I declined. We want to do it on Triumfalnaya Square," she went on.

    "We will come to Triumfalnaya Square all the same. I plan to be there myself," she said.

    Earlier this month, opposition leader Alexander Averin said protesters would come out on the square whatever the decision of the Moscow city officials may be.

    Moscow officials have regularly turned down requests by Russia's opposition groups to stage March of Dissent rallies.

    Nearly 200 opposition protesters were detained during a March of Dissent rally on May 31.

    The crackdown caused public outrage as riot police outnumbered demonstrators and people with disabilities as well as a World War II veteran were reportedly among those detained.

    Several small Russian opposition groups hold Marches of Dissent on the last day of each month with 31 days in defense of their right to free assembly, as enshrined in the 31st article of the Russian Constitution.

    MOSCOW, July 19 (RIA Novosti)

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