News / Europe

Opposition Rally Draws Tens of Thousands in Moscow

James Brooke
MOSCOW - Braving thunderstorms over Moscow and police raids on opposition offices, tens of thousands of people turned out Tuesday, filling the capital's leafy boulevard ring road with a long river of protesters.

Earlier, President Putin tried to cut the turnout by dramatically raising penalties for unauthorized protests and by ordering police raids on top opposition leaders.  On protest day, many top leaders missed the rally because they were undergoing police interrogations.

But the crackdown may have backfired, as the protesters appeared to have a new energy.

Elizabeth, a 15-year-old student, walked with her mother and carried a sign reading, "Back to Future 2012 = 1937"

The year 1937 was the year when Stalinist repression sharpened.  Elizabeth complained that she was among the more than 400 protesters detained at the protest on the day before Mr. Putin's May 7 inauguration.

  • Demonstrators hold the flags of various groups during a massive protest against Putin's rule in Moscow, Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
  • Protesters carry a banner reading, "Russia Go Forward without Putin" in Moscow.
  • Activists hold a huge Russian Empire flag during protests in Moscow.
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media at the headquarters of the Russian Investigation committee in Moscow, June 12, 2012.
  • A view of one of the rooms in Alexei Navalny's flat, after a police search. Russian investigators searched the apartments of several protest leaders Monday and called them in for questioning Tuesday.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an awards ceremony for achievements in culture and science in Moscow's Kremlin June 12, 2012.
  • Participants at the anti-government protest in Moscow.
  • Participants march with flags and placards in Moscow.
  • The badge on the right reads, "I'm against". The badge on the left is the symbol for the protest movement.

Nearby, Kirill, a 22-year-old student, said he came because he believes Russia's ruling elite is getting rich off the nation's oil and natural resources. He said he hope his generation will see a Russia where the rule of law is respected.

Many marchers were young people.  Some analysts say the new crackdown echoes themes in Russian literature in which an older generation seeks to prolong its control over the younger generation.

Analyst Masha Lipman, of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the first month of the new Putin presidency has shown a clear trend toward a political crackdown. "The  searches, the raids, the new law, the ordinary protesters being arrested, which is especially alarming because people identify every easily with a person who is just a Muscovite, just a young person, just a businessman.  The problem is that when you step on this path, it is very difficult to stop," she said.

Nearby, Alexander Shvedov, a 53-year-old engineer, held a Biblical banner and said his Christian opposition group is deliberately leaderless. He said Monday's raids on opposition leaders justified his group's decision to exist largely on the Internet.

Torrential rainstorms opened and closed the four-hour march and rally.  In between, the outdoor event took on the air of a political fair.

Dressed in black, a squad of anarchists waved red and black flags. They chanted, "It is forbidden to forbid."

Communists waved red banners and broke into old Soviet songs.  Russian nationalists waved their gold, white and black czarist banners. They chanted, "Moscow is a Russian city."

Marina, a writer, walked rapidly, to stay well ahead of the nationalists.  She complained they were "strange".  She fears the nationalists, communists, and anarchists are better organized than liberals who advocate, what she calls, "normal human values."

Tuesday is a national holiday, Russia Day.

President Putin took advantage of the day to appeal for national unity. Speaking on state-run television, he said, "Only together will we go forward."

But as he spoke, political repression continued.  Police searched the apartment of one opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, and the office of another, Alexei Navalny.

A third leader, Ilya Yashin, emerged from a police interrogation to tell reporters he believes all three leaders will face charges stemming from the capital's last big protest, on May 6, the day before Mr. Putin's inauguration for a third term.

At the Tuesday rally, a police helicopter flew constantly overhead, filming the protesters.

Here the rotors almost drown out chants of, "Russia without Putin."

Hidden on side streets stood lines of muscular riot police, known here as 'cosmonauts' for their bubble helmets.

Protesters were friendly with city police. Walking past one Moscow police detachment, protesters broke into a chant. They chanted, "Police with the people.  Do not serve the fools."

At the end of the day, no arrests were reported at protests here or in St. Petersburg, or in Novosibirsk - Russia's three most-populous cities.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
June 13, 2012 4:08 AM
No countries going to the next Russian Olympics would be icing on the cake too.

by: Anonymous
June 13, 2012 4:07 AM
Excellent News! I couldn't be happier than to see this. What Mr Putin has now is his own Arab spring, something he entirely deserves in his own country. Sticking his nose in Syria is wrong, and his human rights record is stinkingly terrible. As well corruption won't be tolerated this day and age Mr Putin. He entirely deserves this after what he is trying to pull in Syria. I certainly hope the Russian people don't back down from him, and not only fight for their rights to democracy but also because he is a terrible dictator. He has allowed the same atrocities to take place that he implemented in Chechnya (Kill everyone was his philosophy). We (The west) like the Russian people, I have several friends, none of which like Putin at all over here. They feel bad for their people back home in Russia that they have to live in such a non democractic place. Mr Putin not only are you getting tallied for your stupid mistakes with the west, your own people are tallying you too. Smarten up or you will be overthrown next.

by: Gennady from: Russian Federation, Volga
June 12, 2012 7:34 PM
I don’t believe the illegitimate “President’s” appeal. There can’t be unity with the man who stole election, whose place is behind the bars, with lawlessness, gagged press, denying basic human rights. Putin’s clumsy efforts to intimidate people with the anticonstitutional law hurried by illegitimate Duma & “President” have just stirred up radicalization. Communists started dominate in protests with the demand of nationalization of natural resources beside “Putin to step down”.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs