News / Europe

Russia's Pro-Democracy Protests Cloud Putin's March Election Plan

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of All Russia People's Front, an umbrella movement of his supporters, in Moscow, December 27, 2011.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of All Russia People's Front, an umbrella movement of his supporters, in Moscow, December 27, 2011.
James BrookeJaphet Weeks

For Vladimir Putin, three months may feel like a political lifetime. The sudden rise of Russia’s democracy movement is posing the biggest challenge yet to his 12-year strongman rule.

It sounded like a TV game show.

In a tightly choreographed event, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he would swap jobs with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ... after the formality of presidential elections March 4.

But three months and one controversial parliamentary election later, about 100,000 people came out in Moscow to chant: “Russia Without Putin.”

What snapped in Russia? Voices from the crowd give an answer.

Alexei Vladimirov drove 150 kilometers from Tver to join the December 24 protest. He said Russia has never had fair elections, but that 20 years after the end of communism, now is the time for real democracy here.

Svetlana Slepova came to the protest with white balloons. She said white symbolizes the democracy movement’s desire for peaceful reform.

Stanislav Gerasimov, a 24-year-old computer programmer, speaks for Russia’s new, politically active middle class. He said a critical mass of Russians have stopped fearing the government. They believe that government should serve the people - not the other way around.

Prime Minister Putin recently charged on national TV that some demonstrators are being paid to stage protests. Gerasimov and others see that as an insult.

He said Russian protesters are not paid - certainly not by [U.S.] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama. Gerasimov said people are taking part in protest actions voluntarily, to take part in what they see as a historic moment in Russia’s history.

History of revolutions

Russia went through two revolutions in the 20th century - the first to implant communism, the second to root it out.

For now, the opposition’s goal is to postpone presidential elections to late April. They want new faces and new parties competing in a free and fair vote. Alexei Navalny, the opposition’s rising star, said Tuesday he would be a candidate.

At the protest, Navalny threatened to take a crowd and storm the Kremlin if the pro-democracy demonstrators are rebuffed in the weeks ahead.

Gerasimov and his girlfriend want reform, not another revolution. Drawing on Russia’s turbulent 20th-century history, they say no one wants to execute the czar or fire tank shells at the prime minister’s office.

Internet, democracy and coming election

For the next 10 weeks, the key will be continued access to free Internet space. This protester said she and her friends organize entirely through the Internet.

She said Russia’s state-controlled TV channels all lie, and the only place to find the truth is on the Internet.

The next goal for the democracy movement is a protest rally in Moscow attended by one million people. That presumably could have an effect on the March 4 presidential election, which as recently as three months ago analysts were calling Putin’s coronation.

The Kremlin leader says he wants the election to be absolutely transparent, and insists he does not need to rig the vote in order to win what would be his third term as president. However, judging by the rapidly changing mood in Russia, he may now be fighting for his political life.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid