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Russian Allies Urge Putin Not to Run   04/29 10:42

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Under the slogan "I'm fed up," demonstrators urging Vladimir 
Putin not to run for a fourth term rallied in cities across Russia on Saturday. 
Dozens were arrested in St. Petersburg and elsewhere.

   The centerpiece rally in Moscow went peacefully, despite being unsanctioned 
by authorities. Several hundred people rallied in a park then moved to the 
nearby presidential administration building to present letters telling Putin to 
stand down from running in 2018.

   But in St. Petersburg, Associated Press journalists saw dozens arrested. The 
OVD-Info group that monitors political repression relayed reports of more 
arrests in several cities, including 20 in Tula and 14 in Kemerovo.

   Putin has not announced whether he plans to run for president again next 
year.

   He has dominated Russian politics since becoming president on New Year's Eve 
1999 when Boris Yeltsin resigned. Even when he stepped away from the Kremlin to 
become prime minister in 2008-2012 because of term limits, he remained 
effectively Russia's leader.

   Nationwide protests on March 26 appeared to rattle the Kremlin because of 
the demonstrations' unusual size and reach. The predominance of young people in 
those protests challenges the belief that the generation that grew up under 
Putin's heavy hand had become apolitical or disheartened.

   Saturday's demonstrations were much smaller, but indicated that marginalized 
opposition forces will continue to push.

   The demonstrations were called for by Open Russia, an organization started 
by Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

   As an oil tycoon, Khodorkovsky was once listed as Russia's richest man, but 
his political ambitions put him at odds with the Kremlin. He was arrested in 
2003 and served 10 years in prison on tax-evasion and fraud convictions that 
supporters say were political persecution. He was pardoned in 2013, left the 
country and revived Open Russia as a British-based organization.

   On Wednesday, Russia's Prosecutor-General banned Open Russia as an 
undesirable foreign organization. But the group's Moscow branch says it is 
administratively separate and not subject to the ban.


(KA)

 
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