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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Police detained dozens of anti-Kremlin activists, including an 82-year-old Soviet dissident dressed as Santa Claus' female helper, at a New Year's Eve rally on Moscow's main shopping street Thursday.
Hundreds of riot police surrounded a Christmas tree in the centre of the city and arrested the opposition activists as they gathered to defend their right to peaceful protest.
A man dressed as Father Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, was dragged through the snow to a waiting bus. Soviet-era dissident and rally organiser Lyudmila Alexeyeva, dressed as Snegurochka, Father Frost's female assistant in Russian fairytales, was escorted to a bus by riot police.
"I don't know why I was detained... How could I possibly offer any resistance to anyone?" she said, quoted by Echo Moskvy radio, which reported that between 30 and 50 people had been detained.
A coalition of opposition groups organised the December 31 rally to defend their right to protest, as enshrined under Article 31 of the Russian constitution. Unsanctioned rallies are one of the few outlets for Russia's weak and fragmented opposition.