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Russia police investigate democracy protest by toys

Courtesy Ivan Krupchik

Toys posed with political messages during a demonstration in the Siberian city of Barnaul earlier this month.

Russian authorities are investigating whether demonstrations in favor of "clean elections" by Lego figures, stuffed dolls and other toys in the Siberian city of Barnaul this month are legal, according to reports.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the toy demonstrations occurred on Jan. 7 and 14 in response to Barnaul police dispersing two protests by people in December over the country's parliamentary election results.

"While the authorities restrict our constitutional rights of freedom of peaceful assembly, the rights of toys have so far been untouched," Andrei Teslenko, a protest organizer, wrote in a post on popular social network Vkontankte, RIA Novosti said.

The so-called "nano meeting" included dolls, stuffed animals, South Park figurines and Lego men, some holding miniature placards reading "I'm for clean elections" and "A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin," according to reports.

However, local police believe the demonstration may be breaking the law and have asked prosecutors to investigate.

"In our opinion, this is still an unsanctioned public event," deputy Barnaul police chief Andrei Mulintsev said at a press conference this week, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Prosecutor Sergei Kirei spoke to RIA Novosti by phone, saying, "People are not stupid ... The figurines did not come there by themselves. They did not write the placards on their own."

He added that they toys were "agitation material."

Teslenko, one of the organizers, said the police investigation to "launch a trial against toys" was "absurd," RIA Novosti said.

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