Opposition Leader Kasparov Arrested in Moscow

Kasparov Taken Away on Bus after Arrest (AFP)United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, was arrested and beaten by police on Saturday at the conclusion of a “Dissenters’ March” rally held by The Other Russia Coalition, which opposes the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin. He and over 20 others are still in custody. Kasparov’s official statements will appear here at theotherrussia.org as soon as he is able to communicate.

The peaceful march of roughly 2000 people had mostly ended when a small group of marchers moved to continue to the building of the Central Election Committee to deliver a petition. The marchers were attacked by special forces police and dozens were taken away. When Kasparov, who was not among the delegation, walked over to see what was happening, he was grabbed by police and pushed onto a bus with other arrestees. (Above: AFP photo of Kasparov on the police bus after being arrested.)

Almost all of those detained were physically abused by the police, including Kasparov. Several of the activists who have been released exhibited serious injuries sustained while in custody. Kasparov and over a dozen others were taken before the Meschansky court and charged with participating in an illegal rally. Despite the judge’s promises that defense witnesses would be allowed, the OMON security forces formed a cordon to prevent anyone from entering the court. It is still unclear if Kasparov and the others will be released promptly. Another Other Russia leader, Eduard Limonov, was also detained and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Human rights leader Lev Ponomarev was also arrested and brought into court. In the past, opposition activists have been detained in order to prevent participation in the next day’s event. A similar march will take place in St. Petersburg on Sunday, Nov. 25.

Official statements from the Moscow government said the Dissenters’ March could not be allowed because of problems it would cause for Moscow traffic. But the buses and the thousands of police forces they carried blocked at least five streets for a much longer time than the marchers would have occupied one street in order to deliver their petition. That petition, by the way, was delivered to the CEC regardless. United Civil Front director Denis Bilunov and UCF council member Maria Litvinovich presented the petition to CEC deputy director Alexei Kissin. The presented statement decries the loss of election rights across Russia and demands that the members of the CEC respect the law and the Constitution.

During Putin’s time in power, countless changes to election laws have been made. Many elections have been outright abolished in favor of appointees. Opposition parties have been squeezed out of existence by new requirements nearly impossible to fulfill. For these reasons, among others, many other parties have joined The Other Russia, including Boris Nemtsov and the Union of Right Forces and the Yabloko party. With the Kremlin in total control of the mass media in Russian, taking to the streets is the only viable way of getting the opposition message out to the Russian people. The long-running Kremlin propaganda campaign has produced polls boasting of Putin’s popularity, but when it comes to issues, a majority of Russians say they are dissatisfied with their standard of living and the direction of the country.

 Watch the video of the arrest from BBC World News.