Russian police crack down on anti-Putin protests
With just a week to go to Russia's parliamentary elections on 2 December, police have cracked down on two demonstrations in Moscow and St Petersburg, arresting hundreds of people including president Vladimir Putin's political rivals.
Boris Nemtsov and Nikita Belykh, leaders of the Union of Right Forces party, were among those detained by police in St Petersburg's rally on Sunday (25 November).
"They have forbidden us from discussing Putin", Mr Nemtsov, who plans to run for the country's presidency in March 2008, was cited as saying by Reuters.
The crackdown followed another anti-Putin march of 3,000 in Moscow, which saw the arrest of opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on Saturday. He was sentenced to five days in jail.
The move was immediately condemned by Washington, with the National Security Council issuing a statement describing the latest developments as "aggressive tactics used by Russian authorities against opposition protesters".
"We are troubled that Garry Kasparov and other leaders of the opposition have been arrested and detained. We call for them to be given proper access to legal counsel and fair treatment in processing", the statement says.
According to the leader of the centre-right group in the European Parliament, Joseph Daul, Russian authorities are losing their credibility on the international scene by preventing the opposition from exercising its fundamental right to demonstrate.
"Our group demands the European Union to condemn such an attitude and demands the immediate release of supporters of the opposition group, The Other Russia", Mr Daul added.