Monday, July 25, 2016


Tens Of Thousands Gather In Moscow For 'Fair Elections' Protest

Demonstrators braved freezing temperatures to turn out in Moscow
Demonstrators braved freezing temperatures to turn out in Moscow
By Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW -- Tens of thousands of Russians braved freezing temperatures to gather downtown in Moscow and demand an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's rule ahead of a presidential election next month.
Organizers say over 100,000 protesters came together for the "For Fair Elections" protest, the third such mass protest since the disputed December 4 parliamentary elections, which kicked off with a march through the center of the capital. Police, which have historically underestimated attendance at opposition rallies, gave a considerably more modest estimate of 23,000.
The march -- in which protesters carried signs with slogans like "Putin in the number one crook and thief" and "Go Away Putin, We Are the Real Power Here" -- climaxed with a rally on the city's Bolotnaya Square, where opposition leaders and prominent cultural figures addressed the protesters.
Speaking to RFE/RL's Russian Service, leading opposition figure Vladimir Ryzhkov estimated the crowd size at 120,000, which would make it the largest of the three protests since the disputed elections. 

More Coverage In Russian From RFE/RL's Russian Service
The rally -- which took place on the 22nd anniversary of a massive demonstration against Soviet rule in 1990 that drew hundred of thousands -- included liberals, nationalists, communists, and ordinary citizens, united in their opposition to Putin's rule.
Addressing the protesters, Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the pro-Western Yabloko party, noted the crowd's political diversity: "Yes, we are all different, but we are of the same color, the color of the Russian flag. Together we are defending the future of our country."
Cultural figures like rock icon Yury Shevchuk and popular crime author Boris Akunin, who have figured prominently in the protest movement, also addressed the crowd. Shevchuk performed his song "Rodina" ("Motherland"), which was popular in the early 1990s.
Pro-Putin Demo
A smaller rival pro-Putin demonstration also took place at Poklonnaya Gora in western Moscow. Its organizers have billed the rally as an "anti-Orange" protest against an opposition they claim is trying to mimic Ukraine's 2004 revolution.

"The only candidate who has supported our anti-Orange rally is Vladimir Putin and we say to him: 'Putin, you can prevent an Orange revolution [in Russia],'" said Aleksandr Prokhanov, editor in chief of the nationalist weekly "Zavtra," addressing the rally.

Police said the pro-Putin rally drew 138,000, but attendance at pro-regime demonstrations has been inflated by the authorities in the past. In previous rallies, there have also been widespread reports of the authorities ferrying in sympathizers by bus. Moreover, teachers have said they came under pressure from their trade unions to attend the pro-Putin demonstration.
RFE/RL correspondents on the scene at Poklonnaya Gora said the crowd was, in fact, no larger than 15,000.

PHOTO GALLERY: The Best Russian Protest Signs
  • "Don't rock the boat, our rat is sick." The man holding the sign is Dmitry Bykov, a renowned liberal poet.
  • "Cold winter ... Botox doesn't help." The slogan is a reference to rumors that Putin uses Botox.
  • "Sacked"  
  • "You cannot freeze the truth"
  • With Putin pictured as Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, the text reads, "I had a bad dream that I lived a long life and he still rules."
  • "Screw-tin"

  • "Freedom for galley slaves," a reference to the fact that Putin said he "worked like a galley slave" during his first two terms as president.
  • "It's cold, but I don't give a damn"
  • "Swindler and thief No. 1"
  • Central Election Commission head Vladimir Churov is pictured ripping up the constitution saying, "I tear up for Putin," a reference to the Putin Army -- attractive young women who tear off their clothes for Putin.
  •  “Wanted. Sought by the police.”  
  • "F*** Putin"
  • A play on words where changing one letter turns "elections" into "you are thieves"
  • "We're beating you with finesse”  

  • The sign in the middle reads "Jail Putin"

No arrests are expected in Moscow, where city authorities have sanctioned the demonstration. 
Elsewhere in the provinces, opposition rallies are often brutally dispersed by police, although on February 4 small numbers of demonstrators in the Far East's Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Yuzhno-Sakhalin have gathered without arrests. 
Organizers had feared that the bitter cold snap sweeping Europe and Russia would depress turnout and derail the protest movement's momentum. Temperatures dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius in Moscow on February 4.
Aleksei, a 34-year-old instructor at a theater institute, admitted the temperature was presenting a challenge -- but not enough of one to keep him off the streets. 
"It is cold, I'm already freezing, but still we have to march," he said.
Svetlana, a 22-year-old Internet marketing expert, said she had joined the march because of her fears that Russia was stagnating under Putin's 12 years in power.
"I don't want Putin to stay for another term. I want things to change in our country because when one person is in power for so long, the country is not moving forward and is not progressing. I want progress, I want something better," Svetlana said.

WATCH: Rival Pro-Putin Rally Held In Moscow 

Rival Pro-Putin Rally Held In Moscowi
February 04, 2012
A rival pro-Putin demonstration was held at Poklonnaya Gora in western Moscow. It was dubbed the "anti-Orange" protest as its organizers claim that the opposition is trying to mimic Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution. Moscow police said 138,000 people attended the pro-Putin rally, although independent observers said the turnout was much lower.

The authorities have not fulfilled any of the protesters' demands. They have made some small concessions such as promising to restore elections for regional governors, who are currently appointed by the president, and easing the rules for the registration of political parties and presidential candidates. Those changes, if enacted, would not go into effect until after the March 4 presidential election in which Putin is expected to secure a third term in the Kremlin.
The series of protests that began in December are seen as symbolizing the awakening of a Russian civil society that has lain dormant during Putin's rule. 
But the movement, which unites an awkward coalition of nationalists, communists, liberals, and gay-rights activists, has been criticized for not producing a concrete political vision of Russia's future that would serve as an alternative to Putin's.

Tom Balmforth

Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics.


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: John Smith from: Bangaluru
February 04, 2012 08:39
It is hard for me to believe that Russians are so ignorant. Consciously or unconsciously they are serving the interest of the Anglo Empire and undermining one of the most capable politician that they have ever had.
In Response

by: Matvei from: USA
February 04, 2012 16:15
Keep crying, Johnny! The times they are a changin', and you and your Putin-blogging team will be looking for new work.
In Response

by: Ilya
February 05, 2012 03:59
The fascists, communists and Islamists hate the West so much that they're willing to support any dictator as long as he's anti-Western. They don't give a damn about the Russian people's right to live in a free country.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 05, 2012 09:32
And what are you, Ilya, proposing? That "fascists, communists and Islamists" would just start loving the West because a couple of guys in Russia want to demonstrate? I mean, if you want to have a free country, go and take part in an election, if you have a candidate that could challenge Putin (who has between 44 and 52 % of voting intention at present) - let him stand and win. Yelling on the streets is ok, but don't blame anyone - except for yourself - if the President who has a majority support in the population is not the one that you personally happen to like.
In Response

by: Ilya
February 05, 2012 12:48
The fascists, communists and Islamists that I was referring to are the non-Russians who are happy to see Russia under a dictator as long as that dictator is anti-Western. People like you and John Smith.
As for what I propose for Russia, how about about a free press and free elections? Majority support isn't very impressive when the government stuffs balots, controls tv journalism, and allows journalists like Politkovskaya to be murdered.

by: Jack from: US
February 04, 2012 14:07
These "protests" are at the level Putin can easily swallow, and drop from other end without any consequences to his digestive track.
RFE/RL prefers to delude itself and readers with misinformation and outright lies and above all, wishful thinking.
In Response

by: Matvei from: USA
February 04, 2012 19:22
Ah, yes. it's Jack, the Putin shill, crawling out from under his rock. Looks like you will need to find honest work, Jack, when Putin's cronies can no longer pay you for your propaganda. I haven't forgotten your disgusting words about the brave Anna Pollitkovskaya.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
February 04, 2012 23:44
just to make sure your chicken brain does not fail your memories, keep this for your records: Anna Politkovskaya was US-born fraud, and liar, who could not even write in decent Russian but produced hald-literate hacks to please her US sponsors
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 04, 2012 21:28
Bad, bad Jack, and what was it that you said about Santa Anita Politkovskaya that made Matvei from the USA so nervous that he cannot forget your "disgusting words" even five years after her death? I mean, you know, Jack, you might just end up having to pay for Matvei's therapy so he could finally overcome the adverse effects of your words on his weak psyche :-))). And now that Putin is already nervously packing up his stuff and hectically trying to figure out what country would still be inclined to offer him political asylum, he won't even have money to give you for paying for Matvei's therapy :-))).
In Response

by: Matvei from: USA
February 05, 2012 10:19
Well now the circle is complete. Jack and Eugenio have chimed in, Putin's Tweedledum and Tweedledee. By the way, Eugenio, I'm not made nervous by the likes of you two simpletons. I was simply defending a murdered journalist whose bravery and courage deserve applause whatever your political affiliation. You and Jack show how small and petty you truly are by your comments.

by: Ivan Susanin from: Russia
February 04, 2012 17:35
I love USA. USA is better than Russia. Russia is a thirdworld country. Russia illegally occupies foreign lands. USA is democracy, Russia is communism. Russia is bribery. Russia is vodka and narcotrafficking.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
February 05, 2012 01:03
speakin' about "narcotrafficking". This business is mostly controlled by US government. US politicians of most senior rank are major stakeholders in Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. Ever wondered why there are no drug cartels in Venezuela or Bolivia? That's because those contries are not controlled by US government. Ever wondered why US politicians are so vehemently opposed to legalization of drugs? That's because they will lose billions in un-taxable profits the moment drugs are legalized
In Response

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
February 05, 2012 04:06
Yes, I think that RFE sometimes fails to provide proper perspective and it reminds me of the Russian Today coverage during the occupy Wall Street protests this past summer. RT was predicting the imminent collapse of the country, but most Americans simply went about their daily business. I suspect something similar is occurring in Russia today.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 04, 2012 21:11
Wow, this is like a second Tahrir Square - 100.000 people come to protest in a country of more than 140.000.000 people!!! Let's admit, this is an increadible success of George W. Obama, Putin can just start packing up his stuff already :-)))))))).

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 04, 2012 23:31
Putin's spin doctors will use the mental quality of the inhabitants of Russia: "Нow we continue to live, if Putin leaves? We all perish without him!"
Тhe same story was with Stalin..
People in Russia were crying and waiting for the end of the world when the person who destroyed them as a flock of sheep died.

Today, the Russian man in the street scared the coming collapse of the country and the subsequent anarchy.
Work of pro-Putin agitators to drive to the head of slave, that life is impossible without Putin
One must admit that it works taking into account the mentality of the local public...
No one wants to know the truth--"There are no irreplaceable people!"
And of course we must not forget that Putin has huge financial resources from oil and gas, that can be used to close the mouths of hungry...

by: John from: Canada
February 06, 2012 23:46
Signs shown at pro- and anti-Putin rally artifacts like the signs, suggests that commitment and creativity TEND to be higher when the sign is more roughly painted. Putin forces smart to offer inducements to boost their rally size, but next time, rather than using professional print shops for their signs, just hire some school-kids with finger paints to do the signs, and look at photos of the anti-Putin forces for creative inspiration. Example could be combing Navalny and Bykov message to be "Don't rock the boat or the hamsters will get sick"... Its quite possible that large pro-Putin rallys may actually be more useful to the anti-Putin message than to Putin. We'll see what next month has in store.

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