MOSCOW, June 12 (RIA Novosti) – A rally in support of opposition activists on trial over last year’s clashes with police started in Moscow on Wednesday.
Participants of the March Against Executioners will retrace the route to the downtown Bolotnaya Square, where 650 people were detained at after a similar rally on May 6, 2012 ended in violence.
Twelve protesters are on trial, and another 16 under investigation over last year’s clashes. Officials say the clashes were instigated by radical opposition leaders, while protest activists speak of police provocations that triggered the clashes.
City police said 5,000 protesters showed up Wednesday, while opposition leaders spoke of 20,000. Last year’s rally attracted 8,000, according to police, or 50,000 to 100,000, according to various independent estimates.
Wednesday’s rally was joined by lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov, opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov, protest-minded writer and journalist Dmitry Bykov and whistleblowing lawyer Alexei Navalny, who recently announced plans to run for Moscow mayor in the September vote.
Several protesters were detained ahead of the rally’s start. Ovdinfo.org human rights website said they were held for touting flags of the banned Left Front group. Left Front insignia raised no objections from police at previous opposition rallies in Moscow over the past 18 months.
Police also banned protesters from carrying “cages” with photos of judges and investigators involved in the ongoing trial, opposition activist Ilya Yashin said on Twitter.