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Russian Police Give 'Snow Battle' Frosty Reception

Authorities in St. Petersburg thwarted plans over the weekend for a massive snowball fight at one of the city's major parks.

Police stepped in to halt the mock "battle" at the Champ de Mars minutes after the snowballs began to fly on January 6 and detained several people, according to numerous reports.

Some scenes from those first frolicking minutes -- which included mostly young people and a great many children -- were posted on Livejournal.

Some of the hundreds of disappointed participants can be seen in a YouTube video getting lectured by police on their civil and family duty not to participate:

Authorities warned the would-be warriors as they gathered that by organizing or taking part they were violating federal laws concerning illegal mass gatherings.

"If you don't want your parents to pay huge fines, then don't do it," the police officer tells them at one point.

The "Argumenti i fakty" website quoted rights activists as saying at least one person was detained for allegedly damaging the grass.

New Year's "snow battles" have been held before without attracting official attention. And organizers and participants on the VKontakte social network insisted that the mock battle was merely a flash mob that was in no way intended to be political.

But officials' intervention to block a snowball fight evoked public ridicule, ensuring it would become politically charged.

"For Fair Elections" (@WakeUpR) noted on Twitter that the "forces of law and order" had stepped in to break up a "game:"

Gennady Gudkov (@gudkov_g), a former Duma deputy and Kremlin critic expelled in September over allegations of improper business dealings (allegations that prosecutors said were baseless), extended sarcastic "congratulations" to Interior Ministry forces on their "successful combat operation":

-- Andy Heil

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