Mon, Apr 23, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Kasparov blasts Russian authorities on crackdown

AP , MOSCOW

Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov lambasted Russian authorities over violent crackdowns at anti-Kremlin demonstrations last weekend, accusing police who beat and detained protesters of "brutality and cruelty."

Kasparov, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, met on Saturday prosecutors he said had summoned him in connection with a lawmaker's demand for an inquiry into whether police acted illegally when they detained the former world chess champion during a Moscow protest on April 14.

Police held Kasparov for hours after detaining him as he tried to enter a central square in defiance of authorities who had barred protesters from meeting there.

He was one of hundreds of people detained by police, who beat dozens with truncheons during the Moscow rally and after a demonstration in St. Petersburg the following day -- the latest in a series of so-called Dissenters' Marches that Kasparov helped organize.

The crackdown has drawn criticism from human-rights groups and reinforced opposition contentions that the government is strangling democracy and suppressing dissent before December parliamentary elections and a presidential vote in next March.

The popular Putin is constitutionally barred from running for a third straight term and analysts say those around him want to ensure they remain in power.

"There was only one extremist on the streets of Moscow on April 14 and that was the government and its law enforcement officers," Kasparov told reporters outside the prosecutor's office.

Interior Ministry spokesman Valery Gribakin said the actions of law enforcement authorities were being "thoroughly studied and analyzed," but added that the same was true for the protesters and contended that police were provoked.

"We truly regret if any innocent civilians and journalists became victims of provocateurs," Gribakin told a news conference.

Police "did everything possible to provide security and acted adequately to the situation that developed," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted as saying.

Kasparov disputed those claims.

"All the police claims about acts of violence, of violation of some rules of law ... are totally false. It is a desperate attempt to cover up the brutality and cruelty of police officers," he said.

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