Russians Rally Against Putin, But in Smaller Numbers

Opposition protesters with their flags shout anti-Putin's slogans as they gathered in the center of Moscow during a rally, Saturday, March 10, 2012.
Opposition protesters with their flags shout anti-Putin's slogans as they gathered in the center of Moscow during a rally, Saturday, March 10, 2012.
James Brooke

Thousands of Russian demonstrators converged on central Moscow Saturday, protesting President-elect Vladimir Putin's third term in office amid allegations of election fraud.

Russia’s opposition had everything: brilliant sunshine, a permit for a public protest rally, and a central location in the heart of Moscow’s entertainment district.

What they lacked were protesters.  About 20,000 came to protest on Saturday - only one-fifth as many demonstrators as there were at the last democracy rally before last Sunday's election.  At least 100,000 people turned out for that protest, in 20 degrees below zero (celsius) weather.

White ribbons and balloons fluttered in the wind, but the spirit of Moscow’s fifth big democracy demonstration seemed deflated by Vladimir Putin’s victory at the polls.

Officially, Putin won 64 percent of the vote.  Voter watchdog groups give him around 54 percent, but even that was enough to avoid a run-off second-round election.  So in May, the two-term former president and current prime minister begins a new six-year term as Russia's head of state.

As a police helicopter hovered overhead, Ksenia Sobchak, a television personality turned dissident, told the democratic faithful that they have to move beyond the slogan “Russia Without Putin.”

She said democracy advocates have to show what they are for: an independent judiciary, a free press, and elections for mayors and governors.

The stage and sound system were decorated with posters that read: "These are not elections" and "This is not a president."

But speaker after speaker warned that Russia’s path to democracy will pass through a long slog of building political parties and building a strong civil society.

Vera Kichanova, a 20-year-old journalism student who won a district council election, addressed the crowd. She urged young people to get involved in politics and in neighborhood groups.

From a different generation, Garry Kasparov, the 48-year-old chess grandmaster, urged democracy advocates to persevere.

Kasparov, a seven-year veteran of opposition politics in Russia, told protesters not to get discouraged and not to concede defeat.

The rally showed how Russia's anti-Putin coalition is mutating.

At one point nationalists in the crowd marched out the authorized protest in a group.  The Russkiye supporters marched a few hundred meters to the Old Arbat pedestrian mall and lit flares in the midst of throngs of tourists strolling in the sun.  Police detained about a dozen of them.

Elsewhere this weekend, activists are negotiating the formation of a new democracy party.  Two liberal groups, Yabloko and Parnas, are debating whether to join forces with Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire businessman.

Prokhorov won nearly 1 million votes in the Moscow region in Sunday's election, outpolling even Putin in the capital’s center.  On Monday, Prokhorov plans to start building his own political party.

Now, after five mass rallies, there is no agreement on whether or when to hold another.
Sergei Udaltsov, a leader of the Left Front, vowed to hold a “March of 1 Million” to protest Mr. Putin’s inauguration on May 7.

The most radical speaker of the day, Udaltsov said the movement’s "weapons" will be marches, meetings and strikes. But his speech was met with only scattered applause.
After Saturday's rally Udaltsov led an unauthorized march down the New Arbat shopping street toward the Kremlin.  Only several hundred protesters followed him.

When the group reached a pedestrian underground tunnel at a major avenue, police blocked their way and detained Udaltsov and several others.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: USA
March 10, 2012 10:01 AM
Because this opposition, especially its leaders, is highly unpopular in Russia, very few really support them

by: hamad part 2 of 2
March 10, 2012 3:38 AM
Russia . Russians will not afford more ,if Putin does not provide tangible amendments to relieve the pressure on simple people . Steel grip should be loosened before the situation turns to what has been happening in US states .

by: hamad part 1 of 2
March 10, 2012 3:38 AM
We could comment in Anti-Putin demonstrations and Syria issues whereas we are not allowed to comment on the latest bloody attack of Israeli airstrike on Gaza . Which kind of people we have been dealing with ? Europeans and Americans should pay taxes for restricted vulnerable Palestinians , do you know why ? Because nobody can afford the insanity of those people . They have been burning deep inside because Putin does not allow them to flout Jesus and Christianity in

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs