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.
TEXT SIZE - +

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.”


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid