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Anti-Kremlin protesters clash with police in St. Petersburg

Story Highlights

• Protesters chanted slogans against President Vladimir Putin Sunday
• Dozens were arrested at the unauthorized St. Petersburg
• Police released former world chess champion Garry Kasparov
• Kasparov is emerging as opposition leader
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Hundreds of anti-Kremlin protesters crowded the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest city, Sunday and clashed with riot police a day after similar demonstrations in Moscow.

The protesters chanted slogans against President Vladimir Putin, whom they blame for rolling back democratic reforms in Russia and persecuting his political opponents.

Dozens were arrested at the unauthorized St. Petersburg rally, including Eduard Limonov, an opposition leader and member of "The Other Russia" -- a coalition of opposition groups that organized the rally. (Watch riot police get physical with protesters Video)

Limonov was freed late Sunday, his office told CNN.

The main rally ended after the arrests, but a few protesters remained on the streets Sunday night.

During the Moscow demonstrations Saturday, police detained and then released former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who has emerged as a political opposition leader.

Video of Sunday's rally showed rows of police in full riot gear, armed with batons, advancing behind metal shields. At one point, the line of police took several steps backwards as the crowd of onlookers and protesters shouted.

An elderly woman held a purse in one hand and shook her other hand, which held rolled-up papers, at the police.

The opposition has been trying to build support around the country ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled later this year and presidential elections set for next year by getting people into the streets to voice opposition.

However, despite the vocal activists, the great majority of Russians support Putin, who is credited with bringing stability and relative economic prosperity to Russia.

Eyewitnesses estimated around 1,000 people attended Sunday's rally in St. Petersburg, a number lower than opposition leaders had expected.

A news release from The Other Russia put the number of protesters at 3,000 and said "the brutality of the police response has surpassed that of the Moscow rally."

The opposition group blamed riot police for "an unprovoked assault" that resulted in "many serious injuries," including to a St. Petersburg city councilman, Sergey Guliyev, who was also arrested.

Others arrested on Sunday included several colleagues of Limonov, who heads the National Bolshevik Party; Maxim Reznik, the head of the local Yabloko party; and Olga Kurnosova, head of the United Civil Front in St. Petersburg, according to the news release.

One protester, Natalya -- who did not want her last name revealed -- said she believed many people in St. Petersburg are still not ready to fight the Russian government because of fear.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Kasparov said the number of protesters "increases every time."

"People show determination and willingness to join these rallies even knowing that there will be a great danger for their physical safety," he said.

Kasparov was arrested Saturday after he tried to lead a procession of dozens of other anti-Kremlin protesters from Pushkin Square in the central city to another park where an approved rally was to be held.

The march was cut short when thousands of police and security forces -- many wearing fatigues and riot helmets -- moved in and took Kasparov and dozens of others away.

Kasparov, who had planned to attend Sunday's rally, was prevented from leaving Moscow by Russian authorities. He said he watched the protests in St. Petersburg on television.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance in Moscow


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