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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 20:00 GMT
Putin protest by flash mob
Flash mobbers in St Petersburg
March poll is a 'monstrous farce', protesters said

Left-wing youths wearing grinning plastic Vladimir Putin masks "flash-mobbed" St Petersburg city centre on Saturday in protest at next month's Russian presidential election.

Police moved in and arrested some 15 people for causing a disturbance after the group disrupted traffic near the city centre's Nevskiy Prospekt, RIA news agency reported.

The protesters, who chose the president's home town for their action, wore T-shirts with the slogans "Vova (short for Vladimir) go home!", "Vova, your mission failed!" and "The submarine sank".

"We want to make people understand that this show (election) is a monstrous loathsome farce," Oleg Bondarenko, leader of the youth division of the Communist Party, told reporters.

Moscow's Ren TV said about 60 people took part in the flash-mobbing - a growing trend for surprise public gatherings often planned on the Internet and using mobile phone networks.

About 30 youths from leftist youth movements had made their way from Moscow to join others at the event, the TV said.

Russians go to the polls on March 14 to elect a president in what is expected to be a landslide vote backing Mr Putin.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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