Moscow: A massive police presence in downtown Moscow prevented followers of radical firebrand politician Eduard Limonov from demonstrating onTuesday evening against expected return of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin.

"Russia without Putin!" shouted dozens of activists from Limonov's Other Russia movement as they braved Arctic-like temperatures to make their way to Triumfalnaya Square, just a short walk from Red Square, often considered the central square of Moscow and all of Russia.

But riot police quickly bundled demonstrators, including Limonov, 68, into waiting trucks.

Police said there were 49 arrests at Tuesday's illegal protest and that around twice that number had participated.

Similar rallies were held in a number of other Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, where 12 people were detained.

Putin, who served two terms as president between 2000 and 2008, was barred by law from standing for a third consecutive term. He handed over power to his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

The protest came as tens of thousands prepare to rally in downtown Moscow and nationwide on Saturday.

The Bolotnaya Square demonstration will be the third mass protest in the capital since United Russia just maintained its majority at parliamentary elections last December amid widespread allegations of electoral violations.

Outgoing President Medvedev has pledged electoral reform.