- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2010

MOSCOW — Russian police broke up anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sunday and detained scores of demonstrators, including three prominent opposition leaders.

Several hundred demonstrators gathered in a central Moscow square, defying a ban imposed by authorities. The protesters said their rally was banned in violation of the Russian Constitution’s guarantee of the right to gather.

Protesters shouted, “Shame!” as police in riot gear pushed them into buses. Several dozen protesters were detained, including opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov and Eduard Limonov and the head of the Memorial rights group, Oleg Orlov.

Police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said about 300 people took part in the rally and about 100 of them were detained.

Police also quickly dispersed a similar rally in St. Petersburg, detaining most of several dozen protesters who gathered on downtown’s Nevsky Prospect. Some of the demonstrators were beaten with truncheons.

Similar demonstrations were held on the last days of July, August and October. The timing is a nod to the 31st Article of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees the right of assembly.

Russian authorities have shown little tolerance of dissent, banning most opposition rallies and sending riot police to detain protesters.

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