Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader who presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union, has called on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to hold new elections in the wake of protests this week which have seen thousands of people take to the streets of Moscow and other Russian cities.
"More and more people are starting to believe that the election results are not fair," Mr Gorbachev told the Russian news agency Interfax yesterday. "I believe that ignoring public opinion discredits the authorities and destabilises the situation."
Mr Putin's United Russia party won 49 per cent of the vote in Sunday's elections, but there have been widespread allegations of voter intimidation and fraud. On Monday night, about 8,000 protesters gathered in Moscow to listen to speeches from opposition leaders, while on Tuesday thousands gathered at Triumfalnaya Square.
Over 500 people were detained by police on Tuesday, and two opposition leaders have received 15-day jail sentences. Last night, trucks full of riot police stood guard at Triumfalnaya Square, the epicentre of the protests, but the evening passed largely without incident. The opposition is now planning a huge rally on Saturday, at Revolution Square near the Kremlin. Moscow authorities have approved the protest, but set a limit of 300 participants.
On Facebook, and the Russian social network Vkontakte, over 25,000 Russians have said that they will attend the rally. If even half of them show up, it will be one of the largest street protests in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
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