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Russian Police Detain Activists Marking Anniversary Of Czechoslovak Protest

MOSCOW -- Police in Moscow have detained 10 activists attempting to mark the anniversary of a 1968 Red Square protest against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

RFE/RL's Russian Service reports the participants gathered at Red Square and unfurled a black banner reading "For Your And Our Freedom" -- the same slogan used by the 1968 protesters, who gathered four days after Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21.

Correspondent Ivan Trefilov reported that police quickly tried to break up the August 25 protest, saying it was an unauthorized street action.

"Police immediately approached the participants and attempted to clarify what was going on and to roll up the banner," Trefilov said. "But the participants said that it was a commemorative gathering and not a protest or a political demonstration, and they managed to continue standing there for a little while. In about four or five minutes, OMON forces arrived. After that, the participants were allowed to hold their banner a little bit longer, and then they were loaded into a van."

A number of prominent activists were detained, including Nadezhda Mityushkina and Mikhail Shneider of the Solidarity movement.

Opposition leader Sergei Sharov-Delaunay -- whose cousin, Vadim Delaunay, was one of the original eight 1968 protesters -- was also among those detained.

Another 1968 protester, poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya, watched the gathering from the sidelines, offering support to the activists but not holding the banner.

Gorbanevskaya, now 77, spent two years in a Soviet psychiatric prison for her role in the original protest, which she attended as a mother of two, pushing her 3-month-old baby in a pram.

Gorbanevskaya, who received the lightest sentence because of her children, continued to lobby on behalf of her fellow protesters and published an account of their trials in her work "Red Square At Noon."

She was later commemorated in the song "Natalia" by U.S. folk singer Joan Baez and Iranian-born lyricist Shusha Guppy.

Gorbanevskaya, who now lives in Paris and holds Polish citizenship, is in Russia to attend a screening of a documentary film about the 1968 protest, "5 Minutes Of Freedom."

The film looks at the fate of the 1968 protesters, who all spent years in psychiatric clinics, jail, or exile for their role in the five-minute demonstration.

Ksenia Sakharnova, who made "5 Minutes Of Freedom" together with her husband, Kirill, says Gorbanevskaya was deeply moved when she first saw the film at its debut last year.

"What shocked me was that she didn't leave once for a smoke! And the film went on longer than an hour and a half," Sakharnova said. "That was the first sign, because she's an avid smoker. She was very moved. As soon as the film was over, she asked for a microphone and said that she had never seen such an 'alive' film. She said it was the first film she had seen where she wasn't disgusted to look at herself."

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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