Russia arrests 10 people for commemorating ‘Prague Spring’

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, August 25, 2013 11:26 EDT
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Human rights activists protest in Moscow's Red Square (AFP)
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Russian police on Sunday arrested 10 protesters at a rally in Red Square commemorating the anniversary of a famed 1968 demonstration against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.

On August 25, 1968, eight activists staged a daring protest at the same square after Soviet tanks rolled into the former Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” reformist uprising.

Most of the protesters were beaten up, put on trial and sentenced to prison and exile. Others were diagnosed with mental illnesses.

In a move commemorating that protest, a dozen activists including Natalia Gorbanevskaya, who took part in the original rally 45 years ago, gathered to call for greater freedom.

As the Kremlin tower clock chimed noon, the activists unfurled a banner reading “For our and your freedom”, one of the slogans used in 1968, said an AFP photographer.

The same slogan was emblazoned on the back of Gorbanevskaya’s black T-shirt.

Minutes later, most of the activists were detained by police in front of tourists milling around Moscow’s top landmark.

Police confirmed that 10 people had been detained for taking part in an unsanctioned protest. Authorities said they would consider whether to press charges.

Gorbanevskaya was not arrested.

Activists complain of an unprecedented crackdown on freedoms redolent of the Soviet era since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term last year.

Weeks after his inauguration in May 2012, Putin signed off on a raft of laws that critics have attacked as a bid to quash dissent following huge protests against his 13-year rule.

Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition movement, was last month sentenced to five years in prison on fraud charges which he says is punishment for his political activities.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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