Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned opposition protesters that police will use force to crack down on unapproved demonstrations.
In an interview published today by Russia's daily "Kommersant" newspaper, Putin said protesters who fail to obtain permission from local authorities for public demonstrations "will take a cudgel to the head."
Authorities regularly use force to disperse antigovernment protests in Moscow, even though the opposition is weak and its protests usually do not attract many people.
Activists insist the right to freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution.
Putin also hinted that he may become a candidate in 2012 for another term as Russia's president. Putin was president from 2000 until 2008, when he stepped down because of a law banning a third consecutive term and Dmitry Medvedev became his successor. Putin will be free to run again in 2012 for a term of six years.
compiled from agency reports