Russian Police Detain Dozens in Attempt to Thwart Opposition Protest Over Election

Police detained dozens of people Monday at a protest over the presidential election in Moscow, manhandling many and hauling them into buses as demonstrators chanted "Shame!" and "Down With the Police State!"

In Russia's second largest city, meanwhile, Garry Kasparov — the former chess champion who is now an ardent Kremlin foe — led as many as 3,000 people on an authorized march to protest the vote, which was won resoundingly by outgoing President Vladimir Putin's protege, Dmitry Medvedev.

Moscow riot police with helmets and shields encircled a little square outside a subway station while small groups of activists tried to light flares and unfurl anti-government banners. As some chanted "This Is Our City!" and "We Need Another Russia!" police stormed through the crowd, tackling people and dragging them away, their arms wrenched behind their backs or their shirts half-torn off.

Most of those detained appeared to be younger, and targeted specifically by police, though a leader of a liberal political party, Nikita Belykh, was also taken away by camouflaged officers holding him above their heads. Also arrested was prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov.

Two members of Kasparov's coalition were detained in Moscow, his Web site said.

"Fifteen years ago I wouldn't have thought that my children would be growing up in a country that reminds me so much of the Soviet Union," said Alexander Ivanov, 48.

The display of police force was sign that authorities would allow no significant dissent as the Kremlin celebrates Medvedev's victory — a victory dismissed by Kasparov and other opposition leaders as a farce.

In St. Petersburg, Kasparov and his co-leader in the Other Russia opposition coalition, Eduard Limonov, appeared at a simultaneous protest. Unlike in Moscow, the group in St. Petersburg had permission for the rally.

A crowd estimated by police at up to 3,000 gathered in a square and marched toward the heart of the city, shouting "Down with the Police State!" and "This City is Ours!" Police did not intervene.

"Medvedev's appointment is illegitimate," Kasparov said. "March 3 is the day we start fighting against an illegitimate regime."

"Where have you come from, Mr. Medvedev? Russia doesn't belong to Putin and Medvedev, Russia belongs to us," Limonov told the crowd. "We aren't going to live under President Medvedev, and we are going to prove that in the coming weeks and months."

Medvedev faced only token competition in Sunday's vote. Kasparov and other opposition leaders were barred from appearing on the ballot on technicalities.

The Other Russia coalition held several so-called "Dissenters' Marches" in the months before the election to highlight its assertions that the Kremlin has strangled democracy and tightened its grip over politics and society.

The Other Russia has drawn thousands of people to its rallies, but has had trouble attracting broad support.

"The authorities are doing this because they're afraid of democracy in Russian society," said Olga Chernovskaya, 46, a nurse at the Moscow protest. "People are sitting behind closed doors around their kitchen tables discussing all this and condemning it, but people are still afraid to come out and freely speak their minds."

Click here for video.

Click here for photos.