Thousands occupy Moscow in post-vote showdown. Source: RIA Novosti
Opposition rally at Pushkinskaya Square
"I'm filled with hatred toward these elections, and I will never recognize them," leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov said at the rally.
Prime Minister Putin, 59, is returning to the Kremlin for a third non-consecutive term in office. He trounced the rivals with 63.6 percent of the vote, according to final figures from Central Election Commission.
Election and police officials have acknowledged violations, but insisted they were too small to make a significant impact on the vote’s outcome. Putin has ordered investigations into all violation reports.
Police said that the turnout at the anti-Putin rally, titled “For Fair Elections” stood at 14,000. Organizers said at least 20,000 showed up.
The venue was completely crowded some time before the speakers took the floor, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported from Pushkin Square.The crowd broke into chants “Russia Without Putin” from time to time.
Speakers included liberal politician Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Mitrokhin and Gennady Yavlinsky, Udaltsov and nationalist activists Vladimir Tor and Konstantin Krylov.
“You have stolen from us!” whistleblowing activist Alexei Navalny shouted into microphone, referring to authorities.
Presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, a tycoon who targeted the middle class and was the second runner-up with 7.9 percent of the vote, also took the stage to renew his pledge to establish a political party. His appearance elicited a mixed reaction of boos and cheers.
The City Hall was reluctant to sanction the grassroots protest rally, denying organizers all three preferred venues last week. Only after some 5,000 signed up, also on Facebook, to rally in defiance of the ban, did the Moscow authorities and the organizers work out a compromise.
Police invited Udaltsov and fellow opposition politician Ilya Yashin for a “prophylactic talk” ahead of the rally on Monday, but both refused to attend.
Dozens of trucks with riot police rolled into downtown Moscow on Monday, and a helicopter barraged the sky over Pushkinskaya Square at the rally’s start. City police officials threatened to crack down on anyone violating rules for public rallies.
Four massive anti-Putin rallies took place in Moscow since the parliamentary elections in December, each gathering tens of thousands. All ended without incidents, even earning them praise from Putin for their peaceful nature.
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said the event on Pushkinskaya Square will be followed at 9 p.m. by a flashmob in which silent protesters encircle the Kremlin in a human chain.
Police said the event is illegal and would be dispersed, Ekho Moskvy liberal radio reported. However, law enforcements did not intervene with a similar flashmob on February 26 in which some 18,000 opponents of Putin, according to a RIA Novosti headcount, lined up along the downtown Garden Ring in Moscow.
Protests were kicked off by a rally by the Communist party, whose presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov was the runner-up on Sunday with 17.2 percent of the vote. Police said some 300 showed up for the event, which took place on Pushkin Square before the larger grassroots event.
About 100 activists of the radical opposition group The Other Russia were detained during an unsanctioned protest near the office of the Central Elections Commission in downtown Moscow on Monday. Police said about 800 turned up and about 70 of them were held.
Novelist-turned-politician Eduard Limonov, who heads The Other Russia, was among those detained, the group’s spokesman said.
At least 30 were also detained at an unsanctioned opposition rally at St. Petersburg’s Isaakiyevsky Square the same evening, BaltInfo local news website reported.
Meanwhile, about 10,000 rallied at the Manezh Square by the Kremlin walls to hail Putin’s victory at the presidential polls, police said.
Rally in support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Meanwhile, thousands have flooded Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square to rally in support of Vladimir Putin. Source: RIA Novosti
Speakers at the pro-Putin event included sports and showbiz celebrities, who congratulated Putin with his victory while denouncing the opposition’s claims that campaigning was unfair and the vote was rigged.
“The forces of good have won, Vladimir Putin united everyone,” second-tier movie artist Sergei Gerasimov said, to moderate cheers from the crowd.
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