Sunday, April 15, 2007

Between Belarus and Zimbabwe

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"It is no longer a country... where the government tries to pretend it is playing by the letter and spirit of the law. We now stand somewhere between Belarus and Zimbabwe."

-- Garry Kasparov

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Here's the latest from the frontlines of Putin's assault on democracy:

Riot police beat and detained protesters as thousands defied an official ban and attempted to stage a rally Saturday against President Vladimir Putin's government, which opponents accuse of rolling back freedoms Russians have enjoyed since the end of Soviet communism.

A similar march planned for Sunday in St. Petersburg has also been banned by authorities.

A coalition of opposition groups organized the ``Dissenters March'' to protest the economic and social policies of Putin as well as a series of Kremlin actions that critics say has stripped Russians of many political rights. Organizers said only about 2,000 demonstrators turned out.

Thousands of police officers massed to keep the demonstrators off landmark Pushkin Square in downtown Moscow, beating some and detaining many others, including Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who has emerged as the most prominent leader of the opposition alliance.

Kasparov was eventually released -- and "fined $38 for participating in the rally".

But Putin's message continues to be clear: Democracy will not be tolerated in what is an increasingly authoritarian Russia.


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UPDATE: For more, including Kasparov's early warnings about Putin, see The Volokh Conspiracy.

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