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Russian Opposition Protesters Demand Release Of Activists

  • RFE/RL's Russian Service

Protesters rally in central Moscow on April 6 to demand the release of political activists jailed after clashes with the police on the eve of Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin last year.

Protesters rally in central Moscow on April 6 to demand the release of political activists jailed after clashes with the police on the eve of Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin last year.

MOSCOW -- Hundreds of protesters have rallied in central Moscow to demand the release of political activists jailed after clashes with the police last year.

Protesters at the rally in Novopushkinsky Park on April 6 held portraits of the jailed activists and placards with slogans such as "Free the Hostages."

Speaking at the demonstration, former State Duma member Gennady Gudkov maintained that demanding the release of political activists was a step toward preventing more repression in the country.

"Today is a protest action for those political prisoners -- real political prisoners -- who have already appeared in Russia," he said. "There are dozens and even hundreds [of them]. It's not mass repression yet, but we are holding this demonstration in order to stop the possibility of the mass repression that we already overcame -- the most terrible repression in the 1930s, when tens of millions of people were victimized. We don't want to repeat the Gulags, we don't want to repeat the tragedy. That's why we are here to express our opinion."

The fate of the activists, who were arrested on the eve of Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin in Mayh 2012, has united the opposition movement.

A total of 25 people have been charged over participating in a May 6, 2012, march and rally on Bolotnaya Square that descended into violence.

Fifteen have been put in pretrial detention and another three, including radical opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, are under house arrest.

The fate of the businessman Maxim Luzyanin hints at the scale of the punishments they may face. After pleading guilty to charges of mass unrest last year, he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Unprecedented protests shook the Kremlin late in 2011 but gradually died down in the months that followed.

To keep the movement alive, the opposition is preparing to hold a bigger rally next month, which will mark the first anniversary of the May 6 protest.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, and Reuters
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