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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 April 2007, 01:45 GMT 02:45 UK
Putin opponents step up pressure
Vladimir Putin
Supporters credit Mr Putin with bringing economic stability
Opponents of the Russian president are to take to the streets of Moscow to protest against what they say is the trampling of democratic freedoms.

The coalition of opposition movements, known as Other Russia, says Saturday will be a "March of Dissent".

The march comes as Russia warned it wanted the extradition of London-based exile Boris Berezovsky.

Mr Berezovsky told the UK's Guardian newspaper he was plotting "revolution" to overthrow Vladimir Putin.

Accusing Mr Putin of creating an authoritarian regime, the tycoon said that Russia's leadership could only be removed by force.

Later, he clarified his words, stating that he backed "bloodless change" and did not support violence.

UK police said they were "assessing the contents of a Guardian article... to determine if any offences may have been disclosed".

Riot police

More than 9,000 police have been drafted into the Russian capital ahead of the march, including riot police, Associated Press news agency reports.

Officials have warned that they will take tough measures with anyone who breaks the law.

Boris Berezovsky
Mr Berezovsky said he wanted a "revolution" in Russia

Members of Other Russia, a coalition led by chess champion Garry Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, say they have been warned not to take part in the march.

Despite the protest, Mr Putin remains a popular figure with many in Russia, credited with bringing economic stability to the country.

Analysts say the march will be seen as a key test of the strength of the opposition ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Mr Berezovsky had said he wanted to see Russia become a free and democratic country - but that fair elections were not viable under the current regime.

The UK Foreign Office said it would "look carefully" at Mr Berezovsky's comments, and that it "deplored" any call for the violent overthrow of a sovereign state.

Mr Kasparov said Mr Berezovsky's comments were a "PR stunt".

"They are absolutely detrimental, damaging for what we are doing here," Mr Kasparov said.

Russia's chief prosecutor said he had launched criminal proceedings against Mr Berezovsky.

Financial support

Mr Berezovsky, granted political asylum in the UK in 2003, said he was giving financial support to unnamed members of Russia's political elite who wanted to force a change of leadership in Moscow.

Mr Berezovsky has a fortune estimated at 800m ($1.4bn).

Previously an ally of former President Boris Yeltsin, he has already fought off Russian extradition requests on fraud charges which he said were politically motivated.

He was one of the first targets of President Putin's crackdown on the Russian oligarchs - well-connected entrepreneurs who made fortunes during privatisation - and went into self-imposed exile at the end of 2000.

Following the Guardian article, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again called on the UK to extradite Mr Berezovsky and said he should be stripped of his refugee status.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The impact of Berezovsky's remarks



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08 Apr 03 |  Business

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