MOSCOW (AP) — Police have dispersed an unauthorized opposition rally against the Kremlin's control over elections in Russia and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's decision to run for a third presidential term in the next election. At least 12 activists were detained in central Moscow on Monday.
Associated Press reporters saw the protesters rounded up and dragged off in police vans.
The activists were holding the unauthorized rally outside the building of the Russian Election Commission, chanting: "Down with illegal elections!" The protesters were referring to the upcoming parliamentary and presidential election in December and March, respectively.
President Dmitry Medvedev announced last month that he would not run for a second term but would support the candidacy of Prime Minister Putin, who was the country's president in 2000-2008. The swap has caused an outrage among liberal and leftist groups who accuse Putin and Medvedev of highjacking the vote.
Most Russian television stations are state-controlled, which means they do not cover opposition groups. Many prominent opposition leaders and civic activists have never been interviewed on major television channels.
Police started rounding up the demonstrators once the small rally's organizer, Sergei Udaltsov, told the group that each of them could hold a one-man picket which requires no official permission.
Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front, was detained along with his supporters. He is a regular at opposition rallies in Moscow, most of which are unauthorized. He has been detained at least 11 times this year and has served more than 30 days in jail. Udaltsov got out of jail Saturday after serving 10 days for disobeying police orders at another rally.
Opposition rallies are regularly banned in Moscow, while authorities routinely deny registration to those groups and bar them from running for seats in regional and federal legislatures.