Moscow protest against Russia role in Syria

Demonstrators hold banners bearing portraits of assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, during an antiwar rally in central Moscow (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov) (AFP/File)

Moscow (AFP) - Around 200 people demonstrated in Moscow on Saturday against Russia's campaign of air strikes in Syria, with one protester arrested by police.

The rally by people mainly in their 50s and 60s in a small central park passed off amid tight security as the authorities threw up a strong security cordon.

The demonstrators oppose Moscow's decision to carry out air strikes which began targeting assorted Syrian rebel groups on September 30.

One opposition party, Solidarnost, had called for a protest -- but the majority of those who showed up wore pacifist badges rather than any suggesting political allegiance.

Less than an hour into the demonstration, police arrested a woman waving a banner reading "Putin assassin, don't bring shame on Russia," and bundled her into a van.

Police then blocked access to the site to prevent more people joining, but despite their efforts, protesters continued to chant slogans against the military intervention as well as against corruption in Russia.

Some brandished banners promising to visit "hell upon those who bomb in the name of peace."

Organiser Svetlana Kravietz, 42, told AFP that "war is not what we need in our country -- we already have many problems to solve. We are going through a serious economic crisis."

Fellow protester Dmitri Stipanov, 36, said: "Today they show us initial successes -- just as they did at the start with Afghanistan" following the Soviet invasion in 1979.

"But afterwards it all degenerated -- and today I think we're in for a repeat," Stipanov said.

Kravietz said she believed the air strikes were part of a hidden Moscow agenda.

"We've already had a war with Ukraine and now that is calming down we're off to war in Syria," she said, seeing the manoeuvre as political skulduggery.

"Some people at the heart of the authorities organise these wars to hang on to power and not to help anybody."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that Russia is fighting for its national interests in Syria, not for President Bashar al-Assad.

"Of course we are not fighting for specific leaders, we are defending our national interests, on the one hand," Medvedev said in an interview to air on state television.

"And secondly, we have a request from the lawful authorities (of Syria). That is the basis we are working on," he said, quoted on the government website.