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Russia Rights Activists Rally For Freedom Of Assembly

Lyudmila Alekseyeva (in file photo), chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, was planning to attend the Moscow event.
Rights activists have been holding gatherings in cities across Russia in support of freedom of assembly.

Human rights activists across Russia stage protests on the 31st day of January, March, May, July, August, October, and December to focus attention on Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.

Asked by rock singer Yury Shevchuk on May 29 whether the authorities would permit this month's planned gathering in St. Petersburg, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that local authorities have no reason to forbid such gatherings as long as participants do not violate the law.

Eduard Limonov, one of the leaders of the Other Russia opposition coalition and one of the organizers of the planned Moscow gathering, said he was encouraged by Putin's remarks.

But he added he was not optimistic that the municipal authorities would comply.

Authorities routinely have denied authorization to similar rallies or intervened to prevent them.

In Saratov, only some 10-15 people turned out for a gathering for which local authorities had not granted permission, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Police did not intervene.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group told RFE/RL's Russian Service she had arranged to be accompanied by a bodyguard when she attended the Moscow demonstration later in the day.

Alekseyeva, who is 82, was struck on the head during a March 31 gathering to commemorate victims of that month's Moscow metro bombings.