Thousands protest over alleged Russian election fraud

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Logo of the United Russia political party.
Image: Единая Россия.

Tens of thousands protested yesterday in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow over allegations of election fraud in parliamentary elections won by United Russia, the ruling political party, led by current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The exact number of protesters present is unknown; estimates for the Moscow protest vary from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand, and rallies on a more minor scale also took place in other Russian cities—including Saint Petersburg. Voice of America (VoA) reported the demonstrations as the largest pro-democracy protests since Vladimir Putin came to power eleven years ago. Other reports describe the demonstrations as the greatest since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Police estimated that ten thousand people were present at demonstrations in St. Petersburg. Corruption and a rejection of Putin were the most commonly-cited grievances from questioned protesters.

Opposition leader Evgenia Chirikova told VoA the protests were in favour of fresh elections, and the release of political prisoners. During the demonstrations, protesters chanted "[p]olice, part of the people" at the riot police. Echo of Moscow host Alexei Venediktov described the protesters as "the new generation, the Putin generation". These people "voted, had their votes stolen, and now they want a fair system", said Venediktov.

Konstantin Kosachyov, a United Russia parliamentarian, dismissed the concept of discussions with the protest organisers. "With all respect for the people who came out to protest, they are not a political party," he stated. Student Daniil Klubov, a leader of the St. Petersburg rally, told the BBC that he does not "belong to any political movement" and is "just a student who is tired of all these lies".

Last week, Russian police arrested an estimated 1,600 people after street protests. In anticipation of yesterday's protests, fifty thousand police and riot police were drafted into Moscow. Under one hundred arrests were made across the country during the day of protest.

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Television stations operated by the Russian government provided no coverage of protests in Russia from last week's election, but lifted the blackout one week on, broadcasting images of thousands filling a Moscow park, spilling over a bridge and covering a facing embankment.

On Friday, Moscow authorities declared an obligatory test for all high school students, scheduling it for the exact time of protests on Saturday; protest leader Alexey Navalny is currently imprisoned by order of a Russian judge. And, a Russian health board warned of respiratory diseases being contracted when being in large crowds. Russian Ground Forces cautioned that they would be observing, looking for instances of draft evasion as protesters walked through metal detectors.

Although United Russia were declared victors in last Sunday's polls, the percentage of votes in their favour decreased significantly—down from 64% to 49%.

In March next year, Putin himself will face voters, seeking a new six-year term as Russian President. VoA reported last week that his presidential bid looked likely to succeed; however, that outcome now seems less predictable.

Protestors wave various flags in the air Image: Dmottl.
Protestors wave various flags in the air
Image: Dmottl.
Thousands of protestors gathered in Moscow yesterday Image: Leonid Faerberg.
Thousands of protestors gathered in Moscow yesterday
Image: Leonid Faerberg.
Video of protestors in Russia yesterday
Image: ПОКА ТУТ.
Protestors meet to discuss the official results of the recent Russian legislative election Image: Bestalex.
Protestors meet to discuss the official results of the recent Russian legislative election
Image: Bestalex.
Protestors demonstrating en masse in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow Image: Leonid Faerberg.
Protestors demonstrating en masse in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow
Image: Leonid Faerberg.
Protestors meeting in Moscow on December 10, the end of meeting Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Protestors meeting in Moscow on December 10, the end of meeting
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was declared the winner of the December 4 parliamentary elections Image: Presidential Press and Information Office.
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was declared the winner of the December 4 parliamentary elections
Image: Presidential Press and Information Office.
Protestors stand on bridge near to Kremlin Image: Leonid Faerberg.
Protestors stand on bridge near to Kremlin
Image: Leonid Faerberg.
A protestor walks onto a road holding a placard in his right hand Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
A protestor walks onto a road holding a placard in his right hand
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Eyewitness photograph of protestors taken from across the river Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Eyewitness photograph of protestors taken from across the river
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
An activist addresses the protestors Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
An activist addresses the protestors
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Russian citizens protested on a Moscow bridge yesterday Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Russian citizens protested on a Moscow bridge yesterday
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
A protestor holds up a placard which reads: 'Nice to meet you!' Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
A protestor holds up a placard which reads: 'Nice to meet you!'
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Russian police officers on patrol during a meeting of demonstrators Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Russian police officers on patrol during a meeting of demonstrators
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Police officers walking onto a road, observing protestors Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Police officers walking onto a road, observing protestors
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
These demonstrations were reportedly the largest pro-democracy demonstrations since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
These demonstrations were reportedly the largest pro-democracy demonstrations since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
These protests were said to be the largest in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
These protests were said to be the largest in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Protests of a similar nature also occurred in Moscow on December 5, 2011 Image: Lvova Anastasiya.
Protests of a similar nature also occurred in Moscow on December 5, 2011
Image: Lvova Anastasiya.


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