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Thousands rally in Moscow against Putin

Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in central Moscow to express anger over alleged electoral fraud. They have made a resolution to boycott Vladimir Putin during next year’s presidential elections.

Alexei Navalny, one of the protest leaders, spoke to the crowd amidst loud applause and said that Russians would not tolerate corruption any longer. He told the crowd that there were enough people there to take down the government, but that they were “peaceful people” who would not resort to that “just yet”.

Protesters say the parliamentary elections of 4 December, which saw a victory for Mr Putin’s party, were heavily rigged. The Kremlin denies such accusations.

A spokesperson for Mr Putin, who is currently Russia’s prime minister, said that most of the Russian populace supported him, describing the demonstrators as the minority. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated his confidence that Mr Putin would see a victory at the presidential elections this coming March, saying that the prime minister was “beyond the competition”.

Last Saturday saw tens of thousands of demonstrators stretching along Sakharov Avenue in sub-zero weather. Protests were taking place all around Russia, with the first large protest in Vladivostok.

The Russian interior ministry estimated that around 28,000 people protested in the capital, but rally organisers insisted the real number was about 120,000. President Dmitry Medvedev has recently declared political reforms, but many protesters say this is not enough.

Demonstators are calling for a re-run of the votes, which was allegedly won by Putin’s party – but with a very small share of the total vote. Vladimir Putin scorned the protesters in a recent interview on Russian TV, saying they were “Banderlog” (alluding to the lawless primates from The Jungle Book) and comparing their rally symbol (a white ribbon) to a condom. But he also stated that protesters had the civic right to hold rallies if they remained within the law.

Many protesters in Moscow held onto white balloons and signs bearing slogans of “For Free Elections”. Some also mocked Mr Putin with condom images, to the extent where music journalist Artyom Troitsky was dressed up as one.

The protestors’ resolution from Saturday’s rally expanded on demands made at the 10 December demonstration in Moscow. A new point made was a demand for crating a new poll monitoring agency to investigate ballot-rigging — this would be called the Moscow Voters’ Association.

Mr Navalny, who is a leading anti-corruption blogger and was imprisoned for two weeks over a street protest, greeted the rally goers with the message “Greetings to the Banderlog from the net hamsters”. He condemned Russia’s leaders, calling them “swindlers and thieves”, before calling off the names of victims of injustice, which included anti-corruption attorney Sergei Magnitsky (who lost his life in custody) and jailed former businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky.





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