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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

New opposition rally 'provocation' - Moscow authorities

RIA Novosti

16:53 31/08/2010 MOSCOW, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - An opposition plan to hold a rally in the centre of Moscow later on Tuesday is a provocation, a joint statement by the mayor's office and city government said.

Russian opposition groups rally on Triumfalnaya Square on the last day of each month that has 31 days in defense of their right to freedom of assembly, as enshrined in Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.

Permission is seldom granted, however, making most opposition rallies "unsanctioned" by the authorities, who frequently send riot police in to deal with protesters. The authorities regularly suggest alternative venues, but these are usually rejected by the opposition.

Earlier this month, the Moscow authorities announced plans to close Triumfalnaya Square to build an underground car park.

"Media reports said the organizers of the so-called 'Strategy 31' [protest movement] are planning to hold an unsanctioned... public event (meeting) on Triumfalnaya Square on August 31, 2010. The Moscow government considers such an intention a provocation," the statement said.

Last week, human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva said the opposition would still gather on Tuesday on Triumfalnaya Square, but would not stage a protest.

The Moscow authorities have threatened that any attempts to stage a demonstration would lead to "the personal responsibility of its organizers and participants for violations of the law."

Tuesday's opposition meeting on Triumfalnaya Square could cause transport problems for Muscovites ahead of celebrations dedicated to the beginning of an academic year on September 1 and Moscow City Day in the first weekend of September, the Moscow city government statement said.

"On the eve of the Day of Knowledge and Moscow City Day, the course towards confrontation being pursued by those intending to hold an unsanctioned meeting looks like a challenge not only towards the authorities, but also towards the whole of society," the statement read.

Several unsanctioned rallies on the square have already resulted in clashes with police and the arrests of many opposition members. On July 31, around 75 of the 200 protesters taking part in a rally on the square were hauled away in police vans, while on May 31, 200 protesters were detained, including several people with disabilities and a World War II veteran.

Alexeyeva, Other Russia opposition party leader Eduard Limonov and Left Front opposition movement member Konstantin Kosyakin have already filed a claim to the Strasbourg court on violations made by the Moscow authorities on the right to freedom of assembly.

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