Russian opposition sets Moscow protest for Sunday

Moscow city authorities have given the go-ahead for political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin to stage a weekend rally and march in the centre of the capital, one of the organisers said Monday.

The rally will be held under a statue of Vladimir Lenin on Kaluzhskaya Square at 5:00 pm (1300 GMT) on Sunday, followed by a march toward Bolotnaya Square opposite the Moscow River from the Kremlin, scene of a massive protest against Putin in December 2011, organiser Mikhail Anshakov told the Interfax news agency.

It was not immediately clear how many people the opposition expected to draw to the event.

Anshakov said the city had still not given permission for a much larger event planned for May 6, the one-year anniversary of a protest against Putin's imminent inauguration as president that resulted in bloody clashes with police and hundreds of arrests.

The May 6, 2012, protest led to charges being filed against more than two dozen people, several of whom were given jail sentences of several years.

Moscow rallies peaked in the winter of 2011-12 after it became clear that Putin intended to return for a third term as president after serving for four years as premier.

Putin also served as Kremlin chief in 2000-08. When his constitutional mandate expired, he stepped down in favour of Dmitry Medvedev, now Russia's premier.

Although more recent protests have drawn just a fraction of the numbers seen a year ago, the opposition has been galvanised in recent weeks by a fierce Kremlin crackdown on various forms of dissent.

The Russian government is investigating hundreds of non-governmental organisations for receiving foreign funding, fining those that have refused to register as "foreign agents" under a new controversial law.

Authorities are also pressing disputed criminal charges against prominent anti-Putin leader Alexei Navalny that could put him in jail for 10 years.