Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

Russian opposition stage anti-Putin rallies

Russian police arrest an opposition protester in Moscow
Police said the Moscow rally was unauthorised

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of several Russian cities in protest at Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's policies.

The Communist Party, the Solidarity movement and human rights groups had organised the protests under the banner of A Day of Anger.

Police in Moscow banned the protest there and detained 70 people.

The protests are spurred by a mix of local and national issues, including unemployment.

Freedom cry

The rallies, some of which were sanctioned, began in Vladivostok, where 1,500 people turned out, and continued in Irkutsk in Siberia and later St Petersburg where 1,000 rallied.

In Moscow, hundreds of police officers blocked off Pushkin Square and detained protesters when they began to shout "Freedom!" and "This is our city!", Reuters news agency reported.

Many previous demonstrations in Russia have been outlawed, leading to scuffles with police.

Support for Mr Putin's United Russia party fell in recent local elections, and the economic crisis brought a sudden end to 10 years of growth.

One poster in Vladivostok called for "Free Speech, Free Elections!" while others demanded more funding for children's sports and lower household bills.

Many participants in the rallies demanded the resignation of Mr Putin and other public officials.

The protests did not match ones in January in which thousands of people rallied against what they describe as the government's mismanagement of the economy.

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