News / Europe

Russians Turn Out to Protest Putin

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures during major protest rally in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, May 6, 2013.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures during major protest rally in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, May 6, 2013.
James Brooke
One year after Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as president of Russia for the third time, opposition leader Alexei Navalny led protesters in chanting “Putin Thief.”
 
While the white ribbons, iPads and anti-Putin placards were reminders of the big protests of last year, Monday’s long-awaited rally was marred by tragedy.
 
Hours before protesters arrived, a tower of loudspeakers fell over, killing a volunteer. Navalny was forced to speak through a bullhorn, his words reaching only hundreds of the thousands who turned out on a chill, overcast evening.
 
“I am fighting for a new future for my family," Navalny told the crowd from a flatbed truck. “I have no other country, no other people.”
 
In a larger sense, the Russian opposition leader’s words reach a far smaller audience than one year ago. Blacklisted by mainstream media, his political party denied registration, Navalny is now on trial for what he calls political charges.
 
With Russia’s democratic opposition on the defensive, Monday’s rally was devoted to demanding freedom for 26 protesters indicted for taking part in the rally one year ago. Their black and white portraits dominated today’s gathering. Placards called for release of Russia’s “political prisoners.”
 
Alexander Brakhov held a sign asking, “Should a thief sit in the Kremlin, or in jail?”
 
"The important thing is there is a big number of people, this will be a big help for the political prisoners," Brakhov said.
 
Crowd estimates hovered around 15,000, a fraction of the 50,000 estimated to have turned out one year ago, on the eve of Putin’s return to the presidency.
 
Critics say that Putin’s first year back as president has been marked by new laws restricting freedom of assembly and independent non-governmental organizations. Monday's protesters were greeted by rows upon rows  of “cosmonauts” — bubble-helmeted riot police — and “robocops” — black-uniformed police in special body armor.
 
Hours before the rally, Lilia Shevtsova, senior associate of the Carnegie Moscow Center, called the protest a test: "For us, for our ability to take to the street to defend our people, for our ideals, and first of all for our people in prison."
 
Roman Dobrokhotov, a 29-year-old office worker who arrived in a business suit, was joined by friends to promote their new political party — the December 5 Party. Looking around, he said he saw a cross-section of Moscow.
 
"There are people of all categories here, starting with businessmen and top managers, and ending with pensioners," he said.
 
Indeed, most of the protesters seemed to be political independents. Unlike past rallies, red flags of the communists and black flags of the nationalists were rare.
 
The favorite chant of the evening was “Freedom, Freedom!”

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
May 07, 2013 4:21 AM
He's a criminal and killed lots of innocent people in Chechnya. He doesn't make any good decisions whatsoever for Russia. He does not represent the true hearts, minds, and souls of the Russian people.

by: Carlos .. from: California
May 06, 2013 10:41 PM
To bad you will never hear a peep Barack Obama about the oppression in Russia .. he is the partner of the Kremlin dictators and would never want to embarrass them .. despicable cowardice that does not support the struggle for freedom .. . the heroes stand alone while he is president of the home of the free and the brave ..

by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
May 06, 2013 9:34 PM
The remarkable thing in the Moscow’s rally, although not as spectacular as a year before, when people’s indignation about the stolen elections had been the highest, is that the rally has proven – it’s is 100% genuinely Russian phenomenon. Long before the rally the FSB regime has made all in its illegitimate power to ban any foreign aid, funding and monitoring, to break free Putin’s opposition from any international involvement. The rally showed that heavy-handed tactics doesn’t work. Still there are thousands upon thousands who openly oppose the regime unable to provide progress in Russia in any walk of life, with country sliding into economic recession. The regime has been at its wit’s end at how to plant seeds of fear, how to invent illegitimate/anticonstitutional ways to suppress willingness of people to have their say. The establishment lost its moral ground. It looks that participants take their inspiration in Aesop’s fable of “The Bundle of Sticks” with sons always fighting amongst themselves. It made hard to get any work done. Their dad/mum showed the error of their ways by asking each one in turn to snap a whole bundle of sticks. But when she untied the bundle and gave them just one stick each to snap, it was easy. The sons realized the value of working together. The fable inspires to unite. The regime might have applied host of draconian laws, launch politically motivated courts' of law processes to separate citizens, but the sparkles of the fire of discontent will kindle the flame. In unity is our victory! Muscovites gave great examples to get together at the rally.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs