Opposition leaders vow to continue protests as hundreds are arrested in Russia following the election of Vladimir Putin for a third term as president.
According to police some 14,000 people turned out in Pushkin Square, central Moscow on Monday chanting “Russia Yes! Putin No!” as hundreds of helmeted riot police stood by on guard.
AFP reported that 1,500 people also took part in a rally that happened in the centre of Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city, protesting what they called the ‘illegitimate’ re-election of Putin.
Officially Putin won 63.75% of the vote, however international observers have alleged that there was widespread electoral fraud.[wpcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]The head of an international observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Tonino Picula, said: “The point of an election is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia.”
Moscow police also announced that 50 protestors had been arrested at a separate protest, including the leader of the Other Russia movement Eduard Limonov, outside the central election commission.[/wpcol_1half] [wpcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]
Riot police disperse anti-Putin protesters in a Moscow square. Video: Associated Press[/wpcol_1half_end]The Other Russia, a broad coalition of political parties opposed to Putin and his United Russia party, said that the number of protestors detained was actually 100.
Leading opposition figure Vladimir Ryzhkov, addressing a rally in Moscow on Tuesday, said: “We are demanding an end to political repression, an investigation into massive fraud and early parliamentary and presidential elections.”
Ryzhkov vowed that the Other Russia coalition would continue protests until the demands were met.
More than 600 protestors were arrested in the first wave of protests including campaigning blogger Alexei Navalny.
Navalny told crowds: “Starting tomorrow we are launching a propaganda machine that will work just as well as Channel One.
“When people hear the word Putin, they will all think of another word – thief. Putin is a thief.”
All the demonstrators were released overnight but opposition movement leaders, such as Limonov and Navalny, who have called for further action, face the threat of penalties or jail terms of up to 15 days.
The arrests were criticised by the US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. On Tuesday he tweeted: “Troubling to watch arrests of peaceful demonstrators at Pushkin square. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are universal values.”
Some close to the Russian Government reacted to the tweet angrily. Economic adviser to outgoing Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, Arkady Dvorkovich, replied: “And the detention of protesters in the US – is this normal?”
The Russian Foreign Ministry was also quick to reply, saying: “The police on Pushkin Square were many times more humane that what we witnessed with the dispersal of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the tent cities in Europe.”
Main Image: Yuli Weeks
Sourced: via AFP news wires.