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Russia investigators launch probe into 'mass unrest' after rally

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Moscow (AFP)

Russian investigators on Tuesday said they were launching a probe into "mass unrest", a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison, following weekend protests calling for fair elections.

State investigators said probes would also be launched into violence against police and other officials, adding that the probe would target not just organisers but also participants.

"The investigation has established that ahead of an unsanctioned rally a group of people repeatedly posted on the internet calls to take part in it, knowing full well that these actions could provoke mass unrest," a statement said.

On Saturday, nearly 1,400 people were arrested at an unauthorised protest in Moscow against the exclusion of opposition politicians from local elections later this year.

Investigators added that during the Saturday rally protesters violated public order, used violence against the authorities and "paralysed traffic" in the centre of the Russian capital.

Following the arrests, the West condemned the largest police crackdown on dissent in Russia in recent years.

Russian opposition has called for a new unauthorised protest on Saturday, and more than 13,000 people on Facebook indicated interest in that rally.

Earlier in the day the first deputy of the Prosecutor General, Alexander Buksman, warned against further unauthorised protests, saying they should be met with a tough crackdown.

The authorities' refusal to allow representatives of the opposition to run for Moscow parliament in September has sparked a major backlash.

Ahead of Saturday's rally, police jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny for 30 days and detained a number of popular independent politicians who have fought to get on the ballot.

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