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Democracy Activists Unite Against Putin's Policies

12 December 2004 -- Around 1,000 activists gathered in Moscow today to oppose what they say is President Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian rule.

Members of Russia's democratic and liberal parties attended the meeting, at which speakers called for opposition to reforms that critics say will strengthen Putin's powers at the expense of democratic freedoms.

Putin, meanwhile, today signed into law a controversial bill that would eliminate the election of regional governors by popular vote. The proposals had been assailed by critics as a bid to strengthen the Kremlin's authority and weaken elected bodies.

Putin proposed the law as a way of strengthening the power of central authorities to improve the country's antiterror efforts.