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Russia Writers Lead Thousands in Push for Assembly Rights

Russian novelists and poets led thousands on a protest walk along the central boulevards in Moscow in the first major demonstration since Vladimir Putin began his third term as president.

Russian writers led what they described as a “stroll” in Moscow aimed at defending people’s rights to gather on the streets without permission from the authorities.

Boris Akunin, a popular detective novelist, joined the protesters along with poet Dmitry Bykov and novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signing books and autographs as they strolled along the two kilometre-long boulevards. Protest organizers said the crowd reached as many as 10,000 people while Moscow police estimated attendance at 2,000.

Marchers also gathered at a camp in Chistye Prudy square under a statue of Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbaev occupied by opposition protesters since Putin’s inauguration ceremony on May 7. Protestors will stay in the camp until the next “million march” on June 12, Dmitry Gudkov, a Russia duma deputy from the opposition Just Russia party, told RIA Novosti.

Police detained hundreds of people on May 6 after clashes between riot officers and demonstrators who gathered in their thousands to rally against Putin 24 hours before his inauguration. More arrests followed in the next three days as protesters held a series of unauthorized gatherings.

Russia’s ruling party plans a measure that would impose fines of as much as 1.5 million rubles ($50,000) on people violating the law at protest meetings.

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