Russian writers lead thousands on opposition walk
MOSCOW - Agence France- Presse
Thousands of Russian opposition supporters attend the Control Walk rally on the Ring Boulevard in the center of Moscow on May 13, 201 against Vladimir Putin's presidency. The rally was organized by the leader of the League of Voters and detective novelist Boris Akunin. AFP PHOTO / ANDREY SMIRNOV
More than five thousand people joined a call by acclaimed Russian novelist Boris Akunin and walked in Moscow Sunday to an opposition camp located on a central boulevard.
Several writers joined Akunin's appeal and met crowds of Moscow residents near the statue of poet Alexander Pushkin in the first big rally since Vladimir Putin began his third term as Russian president.
The protest walk had received no formal approval from the city but was not dispersed by police despite gathering a massive crowd that blocked traffic as it advanced along Moscow's famous boulevard ring.
AFP correspondents estimated the crowd at five to seven thousand people, while Moscow police said about two thousand attended, reporting no significant problems aside from "traffic difficulties".
Akunin, whose period detective novels have been translated into many languages, has attended opposition rallies and taken part in a celebrity group that urged people to act as vote monitors during the presidential poll.
He and other Russian cultural figures, including writer Dmitry Bykov, musician Andrei Makarevich and novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed books and gave autographs as the procession strolled a little more than two kilometres (1.25 miles) to the Chistye Prudy neighborhood.
Many then congregated near a peaceful sit-in where opposition activists have camped out since May 9 after riot police dispersed gatherings in other squares.
Authorities have detained hundreds of people over the past week, starting with a major protest rally on May 6 before Putin's inauguration that turned violent and has lead to a criminal probe into inciting riots and attacking police.
The police have not yet tried to clear the opposition camp, where more than a thousand people gather each evening, and more than one hundred stay overnight.