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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs