RFE/RL correspondent Tom Balmforth took to the streets of Moscow to ask people why they attended the anti-Putin rally.
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Vitaly says he isn’t cold thanks to his hat. He says he's never liked Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and voted for the liberal Yabloko party in the State Duma elections in December. “I don’t like what is going on in the country and we came here today to show solidarity with people who share this view,” says Vitaly.
“I’ve come here dressed as a clown because our dear authorities have turned this country into a circus,” says Roman, a Moscow resident who has come to the February 4 protest with his friends. Roman says the December elections were illegitimate and doubts the presidential election on March 4 will be free and fair either. He says he once strongly supported Putin and that many of his friends voted for his reelection as president in 2004. A third term in the Kremlin, he says, would be too much, however, adding that Putin has been at the helm long enough.
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Vladimir says he’s always been opposed to Putin and sometimes participated in the unsanctioned “Strategy 31” opposition demonstrations that began almost three years ago, which are usually suppressed by police. Vladimir says he is happy that more people are protesting now. He came to the protest with three of his childhood friends dressed in white overalls, playing off the white ribbons that have become a symbol of the protest movement. “We came here today because we want free elections and we want to be respected as citizens,” he says.
Dasha said she has worn this "For Free Elections" sticker on her head for the last three hours because she has "had enough of Putin." She wouldn't say who she voted for in the State Duma elections in December: "I voted against [the ruling] United Russia [party]," she said.
Evgeny has never liked Putin and opposed former President Boris Yeltsin before him. He voted for Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in the 1990s, but now thinks that the Communist Party under Zyuganov is in dire need of rejuvenation. Now he wants free elections in Russia and thinks that the left is rising in popularity.
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"I'm against unfair elections and falsifications. I want to live in a normal, democratic country," Gennady says. He opposes a third term for Putin. "I think two terms is enough to bring in reforms, and nothing has been done in this time for simple people." He said he would have voted for Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky in the March presidential election, but he has not been registered. Gennady will now probably vote for Communist leader Zyuganov.