Russians protest against Putin, elections

Tens of thousands demonstrate in Moscow, across the country; rallies test ruler's tolerance, opponents' strength after elections.

December 10, 2011 14:44
4 minute read.
Protesters in Russia.

Russia anti-Putin protests 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mikhail Voskresensky )


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


MOSCOW - Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of cities across Russia on Saturday to demand an end to Vladimir Putin's rule and complain about alleged election fraud in the biggest show of defiance since he took power more than a decade ago.

Rallies were expected in dozens of cities, from Vladivostok on the Pacific coast to Kaliningrad nearly 7,400 km (4,600 miles) away in the west, mounting the biggest opposition protests since Putin came to power in 2000.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

Gorbachev calls for retake on Russian elections
Analysis: Poor election shows Putin's vulnerability

In Vladivostok, a large port city where Putin's United Russia party was defeated by communists in last Sunday's parliamentary election, protesters held banners saying: "We are against mass falsifications!" and "The rats should go!"

Organizers said about 1,000 people defied wintry weather to protest, but police put the number much lower. About 20 were detained in Khabarovsk, a city of almost 580,000 people about 30 km (19 miles) from the border with China, RIA news agency said.

At least 15,000 people protested at Bolotnya Square, a large open space across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, and up to 1,500 gathered near a statue to Communist ideologist Karl Marx at Revolution Square, a few steps from the red walls of Russia's centre of power, witness said.

Protesters in Moscow waved pictures of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev declaring: "Guys, it's time to go."

The rallies are a test of the opposition's ability to turn outrage over the Dec. 4 election, which it says was slanted in United Russia's favor, into a national protest movement that can undermine Putin's plan to return to the presidency in 2012.

"This is history in the making for Russia. The people are coming out to demand justice for the first time in two decades, justice in the elections," a 41-year-old employee in the financial services sector, who gave his name only as Anton, said at Revolution Square.

Like other protesters, he wore a white ribbon which he said symbolized the dissent of the people. At Bolotnaya Square people of all ages gathered, many carrying white carnations which they said was the symbol of their protest.

Calls for new elections

"I want new elections, not a revolution," said Ernst Kryavitsky, 75, a retired electrician dressed in a long brown coat and hat against the falling snow who was protesting even though he did not expect Putin to be ousted.

"Putin will not leave power, and there won't be any major changes in the country but the authorities need to know how angry we are," he said.

Around Bolotnaya Square policeman stood every 50 meters (yards) with dogs. Banners declared: "Putin Kaput" and "Big brother is watching you" with a picture of Putin.

About 50 trucks of riot police were parked near Revolution Square and police were out in force in the capital. There were no immediate reports of clashes or detentions.

There were also reports of protests in other big cities including Arkhangelsk in the Arctic north and in the Siberian cities of Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk.

Anger over election

The protesters were angered by the parliamentary election in which Putin's United Russia party won only a slim majority in the State Duma lower house, widely seen as a growing sign of discontent with the former KGB spy's rule.

Protesters, who this week staged the biggest opposition rally in Moscow for years, say only widespread falsifications prevented the result for United Russia being much worse.

The ruling party's leaders have denied cheating and Putin, who is now prime minister after serving eight years as president until 2008, has accused the United States of encouraging and financing the protesters.

Putin and Medvedev have both said that Russians have a right to protest but only within the bounds of permission granted by local authorities who normally allow demonstrations only at specific locations and limit turnout.

Putin, 59, remains Russia's most popular leader in opinion polls, but his ratings have been falling.

Many Russians felt disenfranchised when he and Medvedev announced plans to swap jobs after next year's presidential election and said they had taken the decision years ago.

The protests have also shown the power of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, through which most of the protests have been organized.

Putin may hope to show his government will tolerate peaceful protests within the limits it sets - by allowing certain rallied to take place but preventing others - but will crack down on anyone who ventures outside those boundaries.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Anti-government protesters demonstrate on a street in central Ankara
June 16, 2013
Thousands take to streets of Istanbul, defy Erdogan