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Moscow Police Say More Than 20 Detained, Released At Protests

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is surrounded by cameras at the March 17 demonstration on Moscow's Pushkin Square.
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is surrounded by cameras at the March 17 demonstration on Moscow's Pushkin Square.
Police in the Russian capital Moscow have briefly detained close to two dozen demonstrators protesting Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency and the airing of a television report accusing the opposition of dirty tricks in the run-up to the vote.

Police say they detained more than 20 people participating in an unsanctioned rally at Moscow's Revolution Square.

Two additional protesters were detained when they unfurled anti-Kremlin banners in nearby Pushkin Square. All of the protesters were released shortly afterward.

Several hundred protesters were estimated to have turned out for the March 17 demonstrations, which come nearly two weeks after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was elected to a controversial third term as president.

Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov -- who was released from jail late on March 16 after serving several days in jail for allegedly disobeying police orders during similar protests last weekend -- spoke to the crowds.

Udaltsov -- who heads the Left Front movement -- repeated his call for a protesters to turn out in force for a rally scheduled for one day before Putin's inauguration on May 7.

"Today a lot of people came here. We managed to hold this rally peacefully, and we have discussed all the important questions," Udaltsov said.

"We have decided when to hold the "March of Millions" -- at least people at the square voted for it. Now we will have the organizational committee file the [permission] requests."

NTV Documentary 'Lies'

The protesters gathered at the demonstrations also criticized the airing this week of a news program on the state-controlled NTV channel suggesting the opposition had accepted funds from the United States and was paying ordinary citizens to participate in its large rallies in the run-up to the March 4 presidential vote.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, speaking at Pushkin Square alongside Udaltsov, dismissed the NTV report as hypocritical and false.

"All of our budgets are open. Not one kopeck was spent on anything other than the stage and sound equipment," Nemtsov said, adding that the NTV documentary "was 100 percent lies, 100 percent slander, 100 percent paid-for, mediocre, chekist broadcasting."

Activists say they are planning an additional demonstration outside the offices of the NTV channel on March 18.

With AP, AFP, Interfax, and Reuters reporting

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