Russian writers to lead thousands on 'protest walk'

AFP, Sunday 13 May 2012

Several thousand Russians signed up Saturday to take part in a "walking" protest against President Vladimir Putin headed by a group of the country's best known writers, including novelist Boris Akunin

More than 2,000 people had signed up on Facebook by Saturday afternoon to take part in a "Test Walk with Poets and Writers" on Sunday in which the writers will stroll down Moscow boulevards to a camp set up by protesters.

Akunin said on Facebook that the event would test the authorities' reaction after police detained more than 400 people on May 6 when a sanctioned opposition rally ended in violent confrontations on the eve of Putin's inauguration Monday. "Since it turns out that it is banned to walk along boulevards and public gardens, a group of desperate citizens, mainly writers, decided to go on a battle march," he wrote, jokingly calling the participants "kamikadze."
Moscow police have promised that they will not arrest people on the walk, scheduled to run from noon to 10 pm, as long as they do not break the law. "If its participants do not breach the law, there is no basis for stopping such acts," a police spokesperson told the Interfax news agency.
In a new tactic, protestors have set up a peaceful sit-in in a park with several thousand gathering on Friday evening. So far police have stood aside, but government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week that the event would be broken up because it was illegal.
Akunin, whose period detective novels have been translated into many languages, has attended opposition rallies and took part in a celebrity group that encouraged people to act as vote monitors at the presidential polls. The 12 walkers leading the protest also include journalist and poet Dmitry Bykov, known for his satirical monologues on current affairs, and rock musician Andrei Makarevich, who backed billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in the presidential polls.
Putin was inaugurated for his third term as Russia's president on Monday. Many opposition activists maintain the Russian strongman who has dominated the country for the past 12 years cheated his way to victory in March presidential elections.
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