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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs