Moscow Police Beat 2, Arrest 1 at Auto Owner Protest

FAR car rally on March 20, 2011. Source: Far-msk.ruPolice in Moscow unexpectedly cracked down on a rally protesting rising gas prices on Sunday, beating two participants and arresting Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, reports.

The 300-person rally was organized by the Federation of Automobile Owners of Russia (FAR). The police confrontations came only as the rally was already coming to a close.

“The rally had already ended and the police unexpectedly detained Sergei Udaltsov,” said FAR coordinator Sergei Kanaev. “They also beat a woman and a FAR activist. They gave no reason for detaining the rally participants. We had to close the rally.”

Udaltsov explained the situation by phone from a Moscow detention facility. “There was a crackdown. The authorities just needed an excuse for harassment,” he said. “When I left the rally I was detained with no explanation as to why and dragged into a car. And several people fell over. In the station I was told that I was detained for calling people to participate in April’s Day of Wrath rally. Supposedly it isn’t sanctioned and nobody can be invited to it. Yes, I spoke about preparations for the Day of Wrath during my speech at the rally, but that’s just an excuse.” According to, Udaltsov was being yelled at to get off the phone during the call, presumably by police.

Despite the detentions, a 50-car auto rally through Moscow organized by FAR proceeded afterwards without incident. Since the auto rally was unsanctioned by Moscow city authorities, FAR had expected people to be detained. Both the rally and auto rally were meant to protest rising gas prices and a government plan to implement “national garages” in Moscow, which FAR claims will do nothing to solve the capital’s intractable parking problems.

No fewer than 100 police officers were present at the rally.