Anti-Putin protesters show their strength in Russia

MOSCOW Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:38pm EDT

1 of 6. People shout slogans during the 'March of Millions' protest rally in Moscow, September 15, 2012. Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched though Moscow under streaming banners, flags and balloons on Saturday to demand an end to President Vladimir Putin's long rule and to breathe life into their protest movement.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched though Moscow under streaming banners, flags and balloons on Saturday to demand an end to President Vladimir Putin's long rule and show their protest movement remains strong.

Protesters chanted "Russia without Putin!" in the first big rally since June, defying increasingly tough Kremlin measures against the opposition since the former KGB spy began another six years in the Kremlin in May.

Some demonstrators released colorful balloons decorated with ski masks like the ones worn by the Pussy Riot punk band, three of whose members have been jailed for singing a profanity-laced protest song against Putin in a church.

Witnesses said opposition leaders appeared to have achieved their goal of attracting at least 50,000 people, enough to maintain the momentum of their nine-month-old movement but almost certainly too few to increase alarm in the Kremlin.

"The summer has gone, three months since our last march. Not a single demand has been met ... on the contrary, repressions have only gathered pace, more people have been arrested," far-left leader Sergei Udaltsov told a rally after the march.

Recalling a stunt in which Putin flew in a light aircraft alongside migrating cranes this month, Udaltsov said: "The president has detached himself from reality. He flies with cranes and just spits on the people from above."

Organizers also released white balloons and doves into the cloudy sky before opposition leaders led the march down a leafy central Moscow boulevard behind a long banner declaring: "For early elections! Against repression!"

Some wore T-shirts demanding the release of 17 protesters facing trial over a rally on May 6 that ended in clashes with police. Others said it was vital to keep attending protests to inspire others to join them and to defy the Kremlin's pressure.

"We will come here as if to work. It must be part of our everyday life," said Alexei Navalny, an opposition blogger and protest organizer. "I want each of us to ask ourselves when we look in the mirror in the morning what we can do for freedom."

Riot police were out in force but stood by watching for most of the day, until witnesses said they detained Udaltsov and several others around 10 p.m. (1800 GMT), the time by which city authorities had said the eight-hour protest must end.

KREMLIN UNMOVED

The protesters say Putin's return to the Kremlin after four years as premier is a setback for democracy. He could now extend his rule of Russia to 24 years if he wins another term when his mandate expires in 2018.

This would mean ruling longer than Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, and opponents fear political and economic stagnation.

"People who lived in the Soviet Union are tired of absolute rulers. We're tired of a police state," said Alexander Kokhmansky, 79, as he marched.

Sergei Yevseyev, 35, said he was protesting against "the total lawlessness, total corruption, the lack of civil freedoms, the absence of independent courts and social injustice."

There was also more focus on social problems than at previous protests, and more communists marched this time with nationalists, liberals, gay rights campaigners and leftists.

Other marchers wanted to show solidarity, without being confident the opposition can achieve much after failing to select a leader or touch off protests outside the big cities.

The demonstrations began last December over allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election won by Putin's party and turned into the biggest protests against him since he first became president in 2000, at times drawing up to 100,000 people.

Putin, who is 60 next month, dismisses the protesters as a minority who do not have wide support across Russia. Apart from some minor electoral reforms at the peak of the protests last winter, the Kremlin has resisted calls for political change.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Interfax news agency as saying the president had been working in his residence in the resort of Sochi and paid no attention to the rally.

"Alas we are unable to monitor that action," he said.

CONCERN OVER CLAMPDOWN

Even so, opinion polls show Putin's ratings, although still high by Western standards, are falling.

Speakers at the rally criticized Putin over new laws increasing protesters' fines, stiff punishment for defamation and new controls on foreign-funded campaign groups.

Opposition deputy Gennady Gudkov was expelled from parliament on Friday on allegations of continuing business activities while holding a seat in the house and Navalny could face 10 years in jail on theft charges. Both deny the charges.

"There is no more constitution in Russia. There are no more rights and there is no more parliament worthy of respect," Gudkov told the crowd.

About 2,000 people protested in St Petersburg, witnesses said, and Udaltsov said police detained some 15 protesters in the central city of Nizhny Novgorod. A small protest took place in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, and witnesses said a there was a small rally in the far east city of Vladivostok.

(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, Nastassia Astrasheuskaya and alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Timothy Heritage, Editing by Steve Gutterman)

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Comments (3)
usa.wi.vet.4q wrote:
The population in Siberia is going up!

Sep 15, 2012 11:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DeanMJackson wrote:
In fact, these demonstrations are staged, since spontaneous demonstrations aren’t allowed in the USSR. As some readers already know, the “collapse” of the USSR was a strategic ruse under the “Long-Range Policy”, the “new” more subtle strategy all Communist nations signed onto in 1960 to defeat the West. The strategy was first revealed to the West in 1961 by KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn, the only Soviet-era defector to still be under American protective custody.

The reason for such “demonstrations” is what is called in the Intelligence Community the “Scissors Strategy”. In this case Putin is one blade of the scissors, while the other blade is the controlled opposition, which leaves the legitimate opposition (who are most of the persons demonstrating in the streets) in the middle, wondering why change isn’t taking place.

This is an old Communist strategy, first employed in Russia in 1921-1925 under the code name Operation Trust. The operation’s intent was to suppress Western actions to topple the embryonic and weak Bolshevik regime by tricking Western capitals into believing that the “Trust” committee was the entity that was really in control in Russia, not the Bolsheviks, therefore Western nations should cease their destabilizing sabotage actions in Russia because such actions only served to strengthen the Bolsheviks.

Sep 15, 2012 1:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kommy wrote:
Anti-Putin protesters show their weakness in Russia- barely 14,000 showed up, all went through the metal scanners- so the police has exact numbers.

The scam of the society.

Sep 16, 2012 1:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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