Russian police detain opposition leader at protest

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MOSCOW, Nov 24 (Reuters) Russian police detained opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and several other anti-Kremlin protesters today when thousands of people marched against President Vladimir Putin.

Around 3,000 people attended the protest in the centre of Moscow organised by the Kasparov-led Other Russia group to demonstrate against a pro-Kremlin party's stranglehold on politics.

A Reuters reporter saw policemen pushing Kasparov and other protesters into a police van. The police were not available for comment.

Other Russia, an umbrella group which unites Kremlin opponents -- from liberal free market thinkers to anarchists -- says Putin has destroyed personal liberties and the freedom of the press since he became president in 2000.

It also says parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2 are unfairly weighted towards pro-Putin party United Russia.

The protesters gathered on an avenue near a central Moscow railway station on a cold dull Saturday morning. They shouted ''No election. For Russia. Against Putin.'' ''It's important now that we express ourselves. It's important now to fight against the president,'' one of the protesters, a 20-year-old sociology student called Yana, told Reuters.

Police cracked down on Other Russia marches earlier this year, hitting protesters with batons and detaining them before they could gather, but they have recently adopted a softer approach and kept a low profile today.

Demonstrations and marches were also planned in other cities around Russia.

Ekho Moskvy radio reported that about 100 protesters were detained in Russia's turbulent region of Ingushetia after the local authorities banned an opposition meeting.

Putin, who is hugely popular in Russia, will step down as president next year after his second and final term but has said he will continue to play a role in Russia's politics.

He tops the United Russia list at the election, a vote the party is expected to win comfortably.

Other Russia wants its supporters to spoil their vote by writing Other Russia on the ballot paper rather than tick a box.

REUTERS RJ SK AS1913

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