An opposition group calling itself the Democratic Union held an organizational meeting Saturday to establish a political party as an alternative to the Communist Party, a leading dissident said.
Police, including some ranking officers, gathered outside the downtown apartment building where the meeting was held, Sergei Grigoryants said Sunday. He said he knew of no arrests.Grigoryants, who has been active among Moscow's dissidents, said he went by the building but did not participate in the meeting.
The Soviet Communist Party has ruled as the only official political party since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and has given no indication it is willing to accept any organized opposition.
Attempts in the past to organize opposition parties have led to arrests, imprisonment or exile.
Grigoryants said the goal of the Democratic Union is creation of a democratic, pluralistic society without a central role for the Communist Party.
He said as many as 250 people from Moscow, Leningrad, Novosibirsk and the Ukraine gathered Saturday to discuss the goals of the group and prepare documents declaring their principles. There was no confirmation of that figure and few apartments in the capital could accommodate such a large crowd.
The talks are expected to continue for two or three days, according to Grigoryants.
The group gathered in the Krasnaya Presnaya neighborhood in an apartment building near the modern office building housing the government of the Russian Federation, the largest of the 15 republics that make up the Soviet Union.
Also meeting in Moscow this weekend were representatives of some 30 independent publications that have been established in defiance of the government's monopoly on published information.
The newspapers and journals, concerned primarily with political and religious affairs, have limited circulation because the government controls all printing presses. Some are only typewritten sheets passed among friends.