Police forcefully broke up a demonstration Saturday by activists of the Hare Krishna movement in the center of Moscow.
About 20 young people were dragged, pushed and pulled onto a police bus after they assembled on Gorky Street in a small park opposite Moscow City Hall to press the Hare Krishnas’demand for official recognition as a religious group.
Members of the group waved to passers-by from the bus windows and chanted “Hare Krishna” as they were driven away. A mother and an infant child, along with two young women, were among those arrested.
Uniformed police, accompanied by plainclothesmen, swooped down on the demonstrators within minutes after they assembled and hustled them into a bus and a van.
Their actions Saturday contrasted with official toleration of a far larger demonstration recently by Crimean Tatars on the edge of Red Square. The Tatars, seeking return of the homeland they were expelled from in 1944, were allowed to camp overnight in a 24-hour protest outside the Kremlin walls.
Last Sunday, demonstrations also were held in the Soviet Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to mark the 48th anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin pact that eventually led to incorporation of the three Baltic states into the Soviet Union.
The Moscow News reported Saturday that authorities detained 86 people in the Latvian capital of Riga during the demonstration there. It said the 86 were taken into custody for disobeying police instructions, urging people to riot and demonstrating offensive attitudes to people of other nationalities.
Six of the detainees were “punished administratively” and the remainder were released, the paper said without elaboration.
Soviet officials have accused Hare Krishna of being “anti-Communist” and a tool of the American CIA.
Hare Krishna spokesmen have denied the charges.
A group known as the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, based in Stockholm and headed by D.V. Jakupko, said early in 1986 that 25 Hare Krishna members in the Soviet Union were either in prison or psychiatric hospitals because of their beliefs.
A Soviet weekly, Nedelya, reported in 1983 that two members of the Hare Krishnas were tried on charges of recruiting new members for the group and disseminating Krishna teachings. The article did not indicate the verdict or sentences, if any, the two men received.
The Stockholm group, however, said that Vladimir Kritski, now 36, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in a labor camp in December, 1982, and then given an additional 4 1/2-year sentence in a strict regime camp for continuing to preach Krishna teachings in jail. His co-defendant, Sergei Kurkin, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in labor camp and has since been released, the Stockholm group added.