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Russian Authorities Authorize Mass Rally

Police detain an activist wearing a Vladimir Putin mask during an opposition protest in St. Petersburg on December 8.
Russian authorities have allowed the opposition to hold a massive rally against alleged election fraud, following a police crackdown on a series of demonstrations this week.

Speaking at a meeting with police officials in Moscow, Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev warned, however, that unsanctioned rallies would be "suppressed."

"Nearly [all of the planned opposition rallies] have been authorized in accordance with the existing procedure," Nurgaliyev said.

"However, as you know, the realization of the constitutional right of citizens to express their opinion should not restrict other people's rights. Therefore, any attempts to hold unsanctioned gatherings and violations of law and order should be suppressed by law enforcement personnel in accordance with current Russian legislation."

Moscow authorities said on December 9 they had sanctioned a rally of up to 30,000 people on December 10 in Moscow.

Hundreds of people protesting against the outcome of the election, which they described as unfair and marred by violations, were arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg earlier this week.

On December 9, Russian election authorities officially declared United Russia the winner of the parliamentary vote on December 4. The Central Election Commission said United Russia has nearly 53 percent of the seats, down from 64 percent four years earlier.

Opposition activists say some 30,000 people have promised on the Internet to attend the December 10 rally in Moscow, and similar protests have been called in other cities across Russia as well.

Putin, who is almost certain to win the presidency in March, has accused the United States of encouraging the protests.

Putin on December 8 said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "gave a signal" to the opposition.

In Brussels, Clinton maintained that her concerns about the conduct of the elections were "well-founded."

compiled from agency reports