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Protesters In Russia's Altai Call For Putin's Resignation

A demonstrator with a red Soviet flag attends a protest rally in Barnaul.
A demonstrator with a red Soviet flag attends a protest rally in Barnaul.
BARNAUL, Russia -- About 500 protesters gathered in the central Russian city of Barnaul today to protest utility-price hikes and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Demonstrators at the rally, which was organized by the Communist Party in Altai Krai, called for the state to exercise strict control over utility prices.

Other demands included the participation of Russia's "leading political forces" in the work of the State Council and the return of the direct election of governors.

A delegation from the tractor factory in the town of Rubtsovsk was unable to reach Barnaul in time to take part in the protest.

Sergei Yurchenko, the secretary of the Communist Party's committee in Rubtsovsk, told RFE/RL that someone called local police and said there was a bomb aboard the bus that the delegation was taking to Barnaul.

Police stopped the bus and searched it but no bomb was found. By the time police allowed the workers to resume their trip, the protest had ended.

Yurchenko said the phone call was fake and was made to prevent the workers from attending the demonstration.

Meanwhile, civil-defense sirens went off during the demonstration, drowning out the chants of protesters.

The Emergency Situations Ministry explained that the sirens were part of a planned civil-defense drill. Organizers of the protest said it was a warning to the demonstrators from the authorities.