News / Europe

Pro- and Anti-Putin Rallies Draw Mass Turnouts in Moscow

Protesters walk with anti-Putin banner in mass opposition march in central Moscow, Feb. 4, 2012.
Protesters walk with anti-Putin banner in mass opposition march in central Moscow, Feb. 4, 2012.
James Brooke

Russia’s political protest movement has been in hibernation since Christmas. Winter still holds Moscow in its grip. But, columns of protesters, both for and against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, emerged from their warm apartments Saturday to protest on the frozen streets.

Across the frozen Moscow River from the Kremlin, protesters chanted Saturday: “Russia without Putin.” But, down a few bends in the river, supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin waved signs reading “Enough of Revolution” and “Our President is Putin.”

Despite Arctic temperatures, Russia’s political climate heated up Saturday, one month before Russia’s presidential election.

Pro-Putin and anti-Putin forces held mass rallies.  Opposition leaders said over 100,000 people attended the anti-Putin gathering. Moscow police said 138,000 attended the pro-Putin rally.

Similar dueling rallies, with lesser crowd numbers, were held across the nation in about one dozen cities.

For the opposition, it was a test of strength, showing that, after a winter holiday break, the movement for democratic reforms is still strong.

Sergei, a 56-year-old insurance worker, said he was impressed with the opposition crowd as he surveyed red-nosed demonstrators, bundled in parkas, scarves, gloves and heavy winter boots.

He said that Russia’s leaders cannot close their eyes to the fact of a massive turnout.

Converging on the rally site by subway, the anti-Putin crowd was a diverse mix of nationalists, communists, liberals and anarchists. The common refrain was the desire for clean presidential elections on March 4, followed by a more open political system.

Standing on a pile of snow, Gregory Kataev, a filmmaker, said he was happy to see such a turnout when the temperature was minus 20 degrees.

"If I want a better Russia, if I want it to be a democratic country,  I have to do something, not only speaking in the kitchen, as we say in Russia," he said.

Opposition politicians say that the ruling United Russia party stole 1 million votes in Moscow in the December 4 parliamentary vote. At the rally here, people with clipboards signed up volunteers to monitor the March 4 Presidential elections.

Lyuba, a 25-year-old social worker, says she is here because her vote was stolen in December.

Elena Gaber, a 20-year-old political science student, came with friends. She said the parliamentary election fraud shocked her generation, and made it politically active.

She predicted that the movement will continue after the presidential vote, building institutions that will chip away at Russia’s authoritarian system.

“I think it is very important to build civil society," she said.

Five kilometers away, at the same time, a similar mass of demonstrators turned out to support Mr. Putin.

They waved signs reading: "Who is for Putin, is for Russia." And "If not Putin, who?"

Many demonstrators arrived by bus. Earlier this week, Moscow media outlets and a human rights hotline received dozens of complaints from government workers saying they were being pressured, or paid, to attend the pro-Putin rally.

The rally was billed as "anti-Orange" - an attempt to link Russia’s opposition with the anti-government Orange Revolution that took place seven years ago in Ukraine.

Nikolai Storikov a Moscow publicist, pounded on the theme that foreign forces are guiding Russia’s anti-government protests.

He told the attendees to support Mr. Putin, who has no contact with “the Orange freaks” or the Americans.

But the opposition protests have already made one concrete change: state television repeatedly aired reports from both rallies. The coverage of the anti-Putin rally artfully avoided showing attacks on Mr. Putin, Russia’s political strongman for the last 12 years.

Before trooping home in the snow, the opposition protesters chanted repeatedly: “Russia Will be Free.”

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid