MOSCOW - Thousands of Russians joined hands to form a human chain around Moscow city center on Sunday in protest against Vladimir Putin's likely return as president in an election next week.
The protesters stood side by side around the wide 16-km Moscow Garden Ring Road in gently falling snow, many of them wearing the white ribbons that symbolize the biggest opposition protests since Putin rose to power 12 years ago.
The mood was festive as protesters, some chanting "Russia without Putin", waved at cars which hooted back in support. Some held blown-up condoms - mocking Putin for saying he mistook the white ribbons they pin to their coats for contraceptives.
"There is no way that Putin can win honestly," said Yevgeniya Chirikova, a leading opposition campaigner.
"You see how many people are out here now. If we can prove that there is falsification in the presidential election, then there will be a very strong reaction (from the people)," she said.