[JURIST] Russian police Saturday arrested several dozen activists among some 3000 protesting [UCF report, in Russian] in Moscow against President Vladimir Putin's alleged infringements of rights and constitutional freedoms in the country. Authorities said the demonstrators disobeyed police orders to cease yelling and waving signs as they exited a central Moscow square. The demonstrators belonged to a diverse coalition of parties critical of Putin, including the liberal United Civil Front [party website, in Russian], led by former chess great Garry Kasparov [official website, in Russian], but most of those detained were associated with the National Bolshevik Party [Wikipedia profile], a right-wing group which was ordered to disband by Russian authorities until the Russian Supreme Court overturned the ban [Moscow Times report] in 2005. The protestors were outnumbered by security forces by almost 3 to 1. RIA Novosti has more.
Several of Putin's recent measures to control internal dissent and weaken watchdog NGOs have drawn widespread international and domestic criticism. In a speech in April, US Vice President Dick Cheney publicly lambasted the Kremlin [JURIST report] over its recent human rights record, saying "In many areas of civil society -- from religion and the news media, to advocacy groups and political parties -- the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people." In July, Russian human rights groups and independent media organizations spoke out against a vague new anti-extremism law [JURIST report] that criminalized incitement to racial hatred, publicly defending terrorism, "humiliating national merit, public slander of state officials and hampering the lawful activity of state organs. Earlier this month, Putin signed a bill [JURIST report] eliminating a rule requiring at least 50 percent of voters to turn out in order for poll results to be validated. Critics have argued that the minimum turnout rule is an important means of political protest because people can express discontent with the system by not voting.