At least 60 demonstrators were detained in Moscow after the latest wave of protests against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his ruling United Russia party. Meanwhile, Putin sent a New Year’s greeting to the country, mocking the opposition.
Chanting, “Russia will be free,” opposition activists took to Moscow’s Triumph Square Saturday to demonstrate for their right to assembly, which is guaranteed by Article 31 of Russia’s constitution. The government refused to sanction the rally, and protesters were met by hundreds of police in full riot gear. Many were forcefully taken away into awaiting police vans.
This is the latest in a string of protests against Putin and his ruling United Russia party. Demonstrators began rallying after the country’s parliamentary elections. They allege that United Russia won by ballot stuffing and vote rigging, a charge it vehemently denies. The demonstrations have been the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, Putin did not seem to be perturbed with the latest protests. In his New Year’s address, he wished Russians prosperity, regardless of their political persuasion, including those who sympathize with the left, and those situated - as he said - on the right, below, above, however one likes.
Putin’s crude remarks, which have a sexual undertone, were not lost on many. The prime minister has often used street slang and less than proper language to address his critics.
Putin’s condescension and apparent disregard for the mass demonstrations has opposition leaders vowing more rallies after the country’s January holidays are over in a few weeks.
Alexei, who did not want to use his last name, says he wants to continue taking to the streets, but he feels like Putin is forever.
He says it is a difficult situation as Putin is a very talented man. It is just not possible for the average Russian to win.
Despite this man’s frustration, thousands of Russians say they plan to demonstrate until they finally get what they want - a re-do of the country’s parliamentary elections - even though President Dmitri Medvedev has already convened parliament.