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Putin, United Russia Ignore Rally Crackdown

APPolice detaining an activist during a Monday, May 31, protest in Moscow.

United Russia has prevented lawmakers from debating police violence at a Moscow opposition rally this week, a Communist State Duma deputy said Thursday.

City police detained more than 150 people at an unsanctioned rally Monday on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, and about two dozen people claimed that they were beaten or attacked as law enforcement officials tried to break up the event.

Sergei Obukhov, a Duma deputy with the Communist Party, tried to discuss the rally at the chamber's session on Wednesday, he told The Moscow Times.

But his microphone was switched off by Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov, a United Russia deputy, because the issue was not on the formal agenda, Obukhov said.

"I congratulated United Russia on the victory for sovereign democracy at Monday's rally and suggested that the deputies should request information from [federal human rights ombudsman Vladimir] Lukin," he said in a telephone interview.

Lukin, who attended the rally, told Interfax on Thursday that he was nearly finished with a report on the incident for President Dmitry Medvedev. The document will discuss Article 31 of the Constitution, which grants freedom of assembly.

"I expect explanations and apologies to the people from the police," he said, Interfax reported.

Protesters have been gathering in Moscow and St. Petersburg on the 31st of most months to demonstrate in support of the right to assemble.

Several deputies have requested that Lukin report to the Duma on the May 31 crackdown and explain what measures he plans to take to guarantee the freedom of assembly, according to a draft order posted Wednesday on the Communist Party's web site.

The deputies submitted the draft to the Duma, but a date for its consideration had not been set as of Thursday.

Obukhov refused to speculate on whether United Russia, which dominates the 450-seat Duma, would turn down the request for debate. The Communists will not abandon the issue if this happens, he said.

Meanwhile, the government also appears to be steering clear of the issue.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Gazeta.ru that Putin was aware of the beatings Monday but did not plan to respond. He refused to comment on what Putin thought of the police work, saying only that the rally was not staged in the authorized place.

Lifenews.ru also quoted Peskov as saying Putin had read a folder of complaints from various public organizations handed to him over the weekend by rock musician Yury Shevchuk.

Putin is not planning to act on them because they were not "questions but a simple statement of facts, which does not require a reaction," Peskov was quoted as saying.

Shevchuk seemed surprised over Putin's decision to dismiss the complaints, telling GZT.ru on Thursday that these were "real issues" and "a job for the government."

He has said the complaints dealt with issues such as the environment, mortgages, corruption and even “golden toilets” bought with state money.

Peskov was unavailable on his cell phone Thursday.

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