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Kasparov Arrested in Massive Moscow Crackdown

Today’s arrest of opposition leader Garry Kasparov provides yet another frightening indication of how far Russia has fallen in respect to even the most basic political freedoms. When the riot police rounded up the protesters at the March of Dissenters today in Pushkin Square for mass arrest, the crackdown showed all signs of being coordinated and strategically designed from the highest levels, deploying an overwhelming show of force and numbers to achieve the maximum effect of fear. I’m told that several buses full of participants from Other Russia were pulled over by police and prevented from entering the city, among other arbitrary diversions, delays, harassment, and interventions. Groups of people walking near a Moscow metro station, not even carrying party signs, were rounded up for arrest and taken to undisclosed locations for interrogation. moscowcrackdown.jpg This unruly, dangerous protester is armed with a flower and a newspaperThe gross violation of human rights” committed today by the Russian government has all the appearances as going down in history as a tipping point. Any government that is so openly afraid and vigorously intolerant of public expressions of political beliefs puts its legitimacy into question. This fact is not lost upon the current leadership in the Kremlin, and it seems that much of the recent political instability and rapidly increasing intolerance for opposition in Russia is rooted in this apparent lack of faith in the legitimacy to govern by those in the government themselves. In the coming week, we will see much indignant and outraged posturing roll out from the procuracy general’s office as they aggressively try to negotiate the extradition of Boris Berezovsky for his ill-advised comments about leading a coup made on Friday. But if they are sincerely committed to prosecuting those who violate constitutional norms, they need not bother with the politics of extradition – the true violators are sitting just down the street in the Kremlin. From the BBC:

Kasparov arrested at Moscow rally Mr Kasparov was arrested amid a “colossal” police presence Police have arrested Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov at a banned anti-Kremlin rally in Moscow. He was detained during a huge security operation to prevent protesters from gathering at Pushkin Square. Police deny reports he has now been freed. The former chess champion leads the United Civil Front group, part of the opposition coalition Other Russia. It accuses President Vladimir Putin of trampling on democracy. The Kremlin says Other Russia destabilises Russia. As he was being taken away, Mr Kasparov told Russian Ekho Moskvy radio that he had been “walking with a group of people along the pavement without any slogans” when riot police had surrounded them. “They grabbed everyone without distinction, without asking any questions,” he said. More than 9,000 police had been drafted into Moscow to prevent the rally going ahead. Mr Kasparov’s swift arrest followed warnings by the prosecution office on the eve of the march, stating that anyone participating risked being detained. And Mr Kasparov said the security presence meant the rally could not go ahead. “I suppose it will be quite difficult to do anything now, you see, everything is shut off – there is a war-like situation in the city centre, as a matter of fact,” he told Russian radio. The planned march came as Russia warned it wanted the extradition of London-based exile Boris Berezovsky. Mr Berezovsky told the UK’s Guardian newspaper he was plotting “revolution” to overthrow Vladimir Putin. Accusing Mr Putin of creating an authoritarian regime, the tycoon said that Russia’s leadership could only be removed by force. Later, he clarified his words, stating that he backed “bloodless change” and did not support violence. Other Russia has called for another massive march in St Petersburg on Sunday, which Moscow has also banned.