MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russian opposition activists are planning to gather Saturday despite Moscow authorities’ refusal to sanction an anti-Kremlin rally.
Dubbed as the Freedom March, the rally was set to mark a one-year anniversary of the largest wave of protests against the rule of Russian leader Vladimir Putin that sparked after last December’s parliamentary elections amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud. The series of protests started with tens of thousands of people, but the movement has been running out of steam over the year.
Moscow’s City Hall refused to authorize the route of the planned protest on Thursday. The negotiations started on Monday and the organizers insisted that the route should end at one of the city’s central squares, a demand that the Moscow government turned down.
In response, the opposition leaders officially recalled their request for a rally declined by the City Hall to avoid tough punishment for holding an unsanctioned demonstration in case of a police crackdown on Saturday.
Hundreds of people have signed up to take part in the demonstration on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad nearby the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters on Saturday.
The most prominent leaders, leftist activist Sergei Udaltsov and anti-corruption crusader have pledged to attend the gathering.
“We wanted to hold the peaceful Freedom March … to protest against political repressions, demand a real politcal reform and social justice,” Udaltsov said in a YouTube video.
The Moscow police warned that those people who violate the law on rallies will face punishment.
Earlier this week the Investigative Committee said that they have evidence proving that Georgian politician Givi Targamadze held control of Russian opposition leaders during mass protests in Moscow earlier in the year.
Udaltsov and two other activists from his Left Front movement, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev, have been accused of plotting mass disorders across Russia with the help of Targamadze. Lebedev and Razvozzhayev remain in custody over the case.
Targamadze has repeatedly denied any involvement. Ahead of the protest, Navalny and his brother Oleg were accused of defrauding an unspecified firm of 55 million rubles ($1.8 million) in phony shipping charges on Friday.