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Moscow Rally Calls For Release Of Prisoners

Russian Opposition Protesters Demand Release Of Prisoners
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WATCH: Russian Opposition Protesters Demand Release Of Prisoners

Several thousand Russian opposition supporters have held a march in Moscow to call for the release of people they consider to be political prisoners.

The demonstration on October 27 expressed support mainly for those arrested after the May 2012 clashes between protesters and police on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration for a third presidential term.

Protesters also called for the release of former oil industry tycoon, Mikhail Khodorvkosky, and Pussy Riot music band member, Maria Alyokhina.

Political prisoners and their trials in Russia are seen by many as part of the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent.

Around 5,000 protesters chanted slogans such as "Free Political Prisoners" and carried a large poster that read "End Putinism, free hostages!"

Vitaly Zalomov, who attended the march, told reporters that he wanted to protest the state of politics in Russia.

"You know, one cannot stay at home when lawlessness is ruling, when the authorities have no limits, when innocent people are behind bars, and the guilty ones are judges," he said. "That's why we are here. We want to demonstrate to the authorities, the Russian people and the world once again that Russia is not a democratic state; that it is a police state."

Another who attended the march was Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

Nemstov said the opposition movement must capitalize on international pressure on Moscow over the Sochi Winter Games next year to secure the release of political prisoners.

"I must tell you that now the most important task is to achieve amnesty, and we have a chance to do that," he said. "Because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is really afraid that European leaders will not come to his corrupt Olympics. Athletes will come, but the leaders might not come. And now is the best time to force him to release our guys."

Aleksei Navalny, the charismatic 37-year old anticorruption lawyer who has emerged recently as the most prominent opposition leader, told reporters on October 27 that the march was needed to increase pressure for the release of those arrested. But he warned opposition supporters that they should not expect a swift victory.

"The truth is that we need to get ready for a long and more difficult struggle," he said.

The number of protesters was much lower than organizers' expectations of 20,000.

Observers said the low attendance was evidence that the opposition movement is losing steam after a series of anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in the winter of 2011-2012 attracted more than 100,000 people.

The protest, sanctioned by authorities, ended peacefully amid a heavy police presence.

With reporting by AP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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