Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thousands surge into Moscow for vote-rigging protest

Thousands of people have gathered in central Moscow to protest against allegedly rigged parliamentary polls.
A sea of demonstrators stretched along Sakharov Avenue, a few miles from the Kremlin, in sub-zero temperatures.
Rallies are taking place across Russia, with the first big protest in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
In the capital, Moscow, organisers expect some 50,000 people to gather for speeches by opposition figures.
President Dmitry Medvedev announced political reforms this week, but many demonstrators say it is not enough.
They are demanding a re-run of the poll, which was won by the party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - but with a much smaller share of the overall vote.
With the temperature a few degrees below zero, the Moscow mayor's office was reportedly laying on tea and simple hot food from field kitchens.
Security is tight in the city, with 40 busloads of riot police lined up along the avenue, according to Russian media.
At one point, police manning metal detectors briefly closed access to the avenue, Interfax news agency reports.
'On the backfoot' At least 28,000 people have turned out in Moscow, Russian interior ministry spokesman Valery Gribakin told Russian news agencies.
A police official who spoke to AFP news agency said there was space for 50,000 on the avenue.
In Moscow, protesters clutched white balloons and banners with the slogan "For Free Elections" as the rally began.
This is a huge, mass movement of Muscovites, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports from the scene.
Saturday's rally in Moscow - authorised by the authorities - has been organised by a coalition of opposition forces.
Some 47,000 people have already vowed on Facebook to attend, and another 10,000 say they may join the demonstration.
In Vladivostok, demonstrators carried posters calling for Mr Putin to be put on trial
Among those due to attend the event is prominent anti-Kremlin blogger Alexei Navalny, following his release from prison after taking part in another demonstration in Moscow on 10 December.
The 22 speakers expected in Moscow include Mr Putin's presidential challenger Mikhail Prokhorov and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Apart from politicians, the eclectic line-up includes rock musician Yuri Shevchuk, speaking by video link, detective fiction writer Boris Akunin, Urals anti-heroin campaigner Yevgeny Roizman and satirist Viktor Shenderovich.
Organisers said as many as 50,000 people rallied on 10 December, in what was the biggest anti-government protest since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The opposition has been encouraged by that success, forcing the Kremlin on the backfoot.
On Thursday, Mr Medvedev proposed to hold direct elections of regional governors and simplify(...)More.

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