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Russian Police Arrest Anti-Putin Protesters

Russian police detain a participant during an opposition rally protesting Vladimir Putin's presidential victory, in St. Petersburg, March 5, 2012.
Russian police detain a participant during an opposition rally protesting Vladimir Putin's presidential victory, in St. Petersburg, March 5, 2012.
James Brooke

The day after Russian voters elected Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as their country's next president, the government staged two celebration parties near the Kremlin.  But, not everyone in the capital Monday found reason to celebrate.

Minutes after leading a chant of “Putin, Thief," Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested with 150 other demonstrators in downtown Moscow.

Elsewhere in Moscow and St. Petersburg, police arrested 150 more people in protests, the day after Prime Minister Putin was elected to a six-year term as president.

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Natalia Pelevine, a Russian protest organizer, was one of those arrested.  She telephoned VOA from the back of a Moscow police van.

"When I started screaming and everyone followed me - 'Russia Without Putin' - that's when they finally got me," she said.

Pelevine added that the van was filled with 12 detainees.

"Now we are going.  I am not sure where we are going.  They are not answering any questions, really," she said.

Earlier on Monday, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called Russia’s presidential election unfair.  The organization's report said there was no real competition in the race and that there was never doubt that Prime Minister Putin would win.
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Putin, who has served as Russian president or prime minister for 12 years, won 64 percent of vote.  Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov won 17 percent.  Third place went to Mikhail Prokhorov, a pro-business newcomer, who won 7 percent of the vote.

Prokhorov was the only one of the four opposition candidates to join the estimated 15,000 demonstrators who gathered in Pushkin square, a kilometer from the Kremlin.

In a brief speech, Prokhorov promised to create a new political party to bring freedom to Russia.

Chess master Gary Kasparov also promised that Russia would become a free country.

But the biggest applause went to three speakers who gave hard-line speeches - and ended up being arrested.

Ilya Yashin, who, with Kasparov, leads the Solidarity movement looked beyond the sea of opposition flags and asked why central Moscow was filled with riot police.

Referring to Putin's election, Yashin said, “They insulted us yesterday, and you came here to say ‘Enough!'”

Putin's opponents are debating setting up a tent camp in Moscow similar to the one built Kyiv in 2004.  That encampment forced Ukrainian authorities to annul a contested presidential election.

Sergei Udaltov, leader of Left Front told the crowd that he would not leave Pushkin Square until Putin leaves the Kremlin.

Earlier in the day, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s outgoing president, asked authorities to review the denial of registration to a pro-democracy party and to review 32 criminal cases, including that of oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  Jailed eight years ago, Khodorkovsky has gradually won the respect of Russia’s democracy movement.  Analysts say Medvedev's move might be intended to defuse the demonstrations.

Vladimir Pereverzin, a former finance director for Khodorkovsky’s old oil company, attended the Moscow rally.

"There is no choice but to release Khodorkovsky, and they are trying to find a pretext to do so."

Pereverzin spent seven years in jail, and was released three weeks ago.

Asked how Moscow had changed while he was in prison, he responded:  "Smartphones, people reading electronic books on the subway, and thousands of people gathering to demonstrate for democracy."

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by: Le Loi
March 07, 2012 7:51 PM
The USA and its allies want Russian president to be a rabbit but the election winer is a brave bear. So they feel disappointed and forget the minimal gesture of politeness: Congratulations.

by: hamad part 1 of 2
March 06, 2012 3:32 AM
People have already broken the wall of fear whether in Moscow or Washington . Putin has taken huge risk when he nominated himself for third term presidency although he has got many supporters .The different between Russia and USA is that Russia does not put empty slogans of democracy to justify its violations whereas corruptions and fraud have been justified under the fake slogans of democracy in USA . Despising the mind of the majorities will lead them to

by: John
March 05, 2012 10:53 PM
The country is full of capable people.......your reasoning if applied to all countries would mean presidents for life...Idi Amin anyone???

by: Asad
March 05, 2012 9:48 PM
i think it's better to the Russian peoples try to make our country.

by: Haron
March 05, 2012 9:23 PM
I think West feel that everywhere is Afghanistan to use West mafia by the name of Talib, AL-Qaeda or international terrorisms but every counrty is differ from one to another it is called Russia. it is not for mis-use but they want be powerful country around world for the second time. no countries can stop them no West nor East. all the powerful countries welcomed Putin as second president so there is no need for protest

by: Gennady
March 05, 2012 7:51 PM
The arrests are anticonstitutional and clealy violate Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen stipulated in articles 17.1,22.1,29.1,29.5,31 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The regime shows its snarl.

by: Sz.E.
March 05, 2012 4:38 PM
I was never a political person, not interested. Is a huge shame on countries who try to interfere with other countries interior afairs. Mr. PUTIN is loved all over the world + in his own MOTHERLAND ! I had enough from some countries who are puting their noses in all countries of the world ! Is ENOUGH ! We need world peace. Some of the world policeing countries, are up to their neck and their hand in BLOOD of innocent people ! Mr. Putin is NOT one of them ! Can be proven easily !

by: Gennady
March 05, 2012 3:55 PM
Jonathan Huang knows nothing about the scope of fraud & intimidation all over Russia or is paid for. It was Putin’s opposition (liberals+socialists+nationalists) who won but not the disgraced, discredited, lawless and corrupt regime. Putin and his party “of thieves” blatantly stole two last election and they lost their legitimacy.

by: LY THUONG KIET
March 05, 2012 3:34 PM
Those who are unsulting Putin and acting against the will of the majority of Russia should be arrested and punished. If anyone could do whatever he wants no matter how dirty it is, the whole nation would turn into chaos and disorder.

by: Jonathan Huang
March 05, 2012 2:06 PM
how could all those assumed "frauds" added up changes the fact that Putin won 64% and the closest is only 17%. Majority Russians support Putin, any questions? I am also wondering if the west really want the communist takes the power back, or just want Russia in trouble? Shame on the west! BTW, good job, Mr Putin!
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