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Russian Opposition Returns to Streets in Protest


Opposition activists Gennady Gudkov, right, and Ilya Ponomarev, a lawmaker, left, march with opposition supporters heading to a protest rally in Moscow, September 15, 2012.

Opposition activists Gennady Gudkov, right, and Ilya Ponomarev, a lawmaker, left, march with opposition supporters heading to a protest rally in Moscow, September 15, 2012.

Thousands of people streamed into central Moscow Saturday to protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his unprecedented third term as president.

Chanting, "Freedom for everyone," the demonstrators, many wearing white to show their solidarity, streamed into the center of Moscow to protest against Putin. They say Putin runs the country through a tightly controlled political system and corruption, charges the Kremlin denies.

Various people attended the rally including infants, the elderly, nationalists and liberals. They screamed, "Russia without Putin!" Many say they are upset because they believe that the Kremlin is cracking down on dissent since Putin returned to the Kremlin in May.

Nadezhda, who didn't want to use her last name, is one of the critics. She says she attended the rally because she does not like the current environment in Russia. "I want to live in a free country, where my thoughts are my own," Nadezhda said. "I don't want to live in a political state. I do not want one person who decides what everyone else will do."

Watch footage of the protest in Moscow Saturday

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Artem, who also didn't want to give his last name, says he too is unhappy with the Putin administration. "I don't agree with what is going on in our country, but I don't know what to do about it," said Artem. Artem adds that there are a lot of people who are unhappy.

Since last year, there have been many rallies against Putin, and for clean elections. However, critics say nothing has really changed. In fact, they say the Kremlin seems to be cracking down harder on dissent.

In addition to higher protest fines, parliament expelled a prominent opposition leader and Duma Deputy, Gennady Gudkhov. This, after a commission responsible for monitoring the business activities of Russian lawmakers found Gudkhov in violation of the law by co-owning and managing a construction materials business and allegedly making money from a textile firm.

Gudkhov says he is innocent and that he was targeted because he is an opposition leader. He also notes that his expulsion came on the eve of Saturday's protests against Putin, which he planned to attend.

Now that Gudkhov has been expelled, he has no immunity from prosecution and his supporters fear he could be arrested.

Many of those attending the rally also chanted, "Free Pussy Riot!"

Three members of the all-female punk band were recently sentenced to two years in a penal colony for performing an anti-Putin prayer on the altar of Russia's most prominent Orthodox cathedral. During their prayer they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver them from Putin. They were convicted of hooliganism.

Despite the recent crackdowns, many Russian critics say they hold out hope that Russia will overcome corruption and Putin.

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