News / Europe

Tens of Thousands Protest Alleged Voter Fraud in Russia

Protesters gathered in central Moscow Saturday to express their discontent with recent parliamentary elections, which observers say were tainted by ballot-stuffing and fraud on behalf of Mr. President Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia.
Protesters gathered in central Moscow Saturday to express their discontent with recent parliamentary elections, which observers say were tainted by ballot-stuffing and fraud on behalf of Mr. President Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia.
James Brooke

Protesters came out across the world’s largest country to demand clean elections and to say what, only one week ago, was unsayable.

“Russia Without Putin” was the favorite chant of thousands of demonstrators who marched within earshot of the Kremlin in the largest pro-democracy demonstration since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

From Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast to Kaliningrad on the Baltic, tens of thousands of Russians turned out to protest what they called blatant fraud in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Standing on Revolution Square in Moscow, Evgenia Chirikova, an opposition leader, talked to VOA before joining a rally police estimated at 20,000 people although organizers claimed there were many more there.

Speaking in Russian, she said the democracy movement demands new elections and the release of political prisoners. Last week, police responded harshly to street protests, arresting an estimated 1,600 people.

Photo Gallery: Russians Protest Against Putin and for Democracy in Moscow

On Saturday, less than 100 people were arrested nationwide. At the end of the Moscow rally, demonstrators faced the long lines of riot police and chanted: “Police, part of the people.” State-run TV broke their weeklong blackout and covered protests, showing thousands of people in Moscow filling a park, spilling over a bridge and covering a facing embankment.

Alexei Venediktov, the white haired director of Ekho Moscow Radio, fought Soviet authorities in the 1980s.  "Here is the new generation, the Putin generation," he said. "They voted, had their votes stolen, and now they want a fair system."

Authorities did their best to keep Russia’s new generation away.

On Friday, Moscow school officials declared a mandatory test for all high school students, scheduling it for the precise time of the Saturday demonstration. Federal health officials warned parents that respiratory diseases can be communicated in large groups of people. The Army warned that they would be checking for draft dodgers as protesters filed through metal detectors.

A judge kept the most charismatic protest leader, Alexei Navalny, in jail. The imprisoned leaders responded by banging their cell doors and chanting protest slogans at the time of the mass protest.

And when the protest hour approached, thousands upon thousands of Muscovites emerged from nearby metro stations, trudging through the first light snow of winter.

Corruption and a rejection of Mr. Putin were the most common reasons cited by people at the protest.

Roman Sytnikov, the 32-year-old director of a logistics company, also said it was his first time at a demonstration. Sytnikov said he cannot keep silent any more because the corruption is too great.

Like many protesters, Andrei, a 24-year-old computer worker, said he had found about the protest through the internet. He surveyed the massive crowd, the young men who climbed trees to get a better view, and said:

“I feel happy, because it is great that people understand what is happening.”

Roman Protasevich, a 31-year-old financial advisor, said he no longer has a television. He gets all his information off the web. He said Prime Minister Putin showed a Soviet mentality when he charged Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton activated the protests by sending out a “signal.”

“This is very funny," Protasevich said. "Actually when I heard your English, I wanted to make a joke that you are the American spies here. But Putin continues to say what he used to say before. But it is very funny. No one believes in this.”

On March 4, Mr. Putin faces voters as he seeks a new, six-year term as president. One week ago, everyone thought his electoral victory would be automatic.

After Saturday's protests across Russia, all bets are off.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More