December 12, 2008 / 3:10 PM / 11 years ago

Heckler slams Russian leader on constitution change

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suffered a rare interruption by a heckler on Friday who told an audience in the Kremlin that proposed constitutional amendments extending the presidential term were “a disgrace.”

Security officers remove a heckler from the hall in Moscow's Kremlin where Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev was addressing to mark the Constitution Day, December 12, 2008. Medvedev was interrupted by a heckler on Friday who told an astonished audience in the Kremlin that proposed constitutional amendments extending the presidential term were a disgrace. REUTERS/Pool/Natalia Kolesnikova

During a Kremlin speech marking the 15th anniversary of the Russian constitution, Medvedev was interrupted by a well known opposition activist as the president spoke about freedoms.

“The amendments are a disgrace,” shouted the heckler.

Medvedev, who is rarely heckled, ignored the interruption.

After a few minutes, the heckler shouted: “There are no real elections. It is a disgrace.”

Several presidential security guards started to try to escort the heckler out, said a Reuters reporter at the event, but Medvedev intervened.

“Really there is no need to take anyone away. Let him stay and listen,” Medvedev said to applause from the hall.

“The constitution was accepted for that — so that everyone had a right to express their own positions. It is also a position which can be respected.”

The security guards nevertheless escorted the heckler away.

“When Medvedev started to speak about how great our constitution was I couldn’t take it any longer. He is talking complete rubbish,” the heckler, Roman Dobrokhotov, later told Reuters by telephone from a local police station.

“This event seemed interesting to me because while they rape our constitution, officials are all talking about how much they love it,” he said. “There is a truly fantastic cynicism in this and I wanted to look them in the eye.”

Reporting by Denis Dyomkin and Aydar Buribaev, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Elizabeth Piper

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