ST. PETERSBURG -- The opposition Other Russia group is going to court in St. Petersburg to defend its right to hold a rally on January 31 in support of freedom of assembly, RFE/RL Russian Service reports.
The city's Law and Order Committee earlier refused permission for a rally on Nevsky Prospect, the city's main street, and proposed Chernyshevsky Park outside the city center as an alternative venue.
Opposition activists said the official reason for that refusal was contradictory as authorities reportedly said Other Russia's rally would block traffic at the nearby Gostiny Dvor trade complex, even though they have allowed snow removal equipment to work there.
Other Russia coordinator Andrei Dmitriev said he hopes the court will find the refusal illegal and allow the rally. He added that if the court ruling is negative the group will appeal to a higher court and gather at the Gostiny Dvor subway station.
Dmitriev said rally participants are expected to arrive one by one, each with a piece of paper with the number 31 pinned to their clothing.
The event will be the first in St. Petersburg in the framework of Strategy 31, a campaign in support of freedom of assembly (which is guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution) that was launched by another leader of Other Russia, Eduard Limonov.
Meanwhile, Lyudmila Alekseeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group told RFE/RL today that her group, along with the Memorial human rights group and the movement For Human Rights, will support the January 31 opposition rally in Moscow in support of freedom of assembly.
Moscow authorities have banned their rally on Triumfalnaya Square, reportedly because of previously scheduled cultural events.
Activists said they will come to the rally despite the ban. The last opposition rally in Moscow, on December 31, was dispersed by police.