Gorbachev calls for new elections to appease Russians

 

Moscow

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 this week's protests that have seen thousands of people take to the streets of Moscow and other 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 on Triumfalnaya Square, the epicentre of protests, but not many demonstrators turned up and the evening passed largely without incident.

The opposition is now planning a huge rally on Saturday, to be held at Revolution Square, just a stone's throw from 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 said they would attend the meeting over the course of yesterday, with thousands of people confirming their attendance each hour. 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. Groups were also set up for planned protests in cities across Russia. By yesterday evening, 3,500 people had signed up to rally on Saturday in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, with another 7,000 saying they might attend.

Most of those detained over the past days have been released, though some said they were forced to sign blank pieces of paper in the police station, with officers saying they would write in the details later.

"They didn't beat me when I was arrested," one protester, Alexander Manotskov, wrote on his blog. "But they did afterwards, in a special dark police van. I was covered in blood."

The growing discontent has surprised authorities, whose response has been muted. Mr Putin officially submitted his papers for the presidential vote in March, but made no comment yesterday on the growing mood of rebellion.

Vladimir Churov, the head of Russia's Central Election Committee, said videos posted by Russians on YouTube that apparently show ballot stuffing, multiple voting and other violations were filmed in "secret apartments made to look like fake polling stations". And pro-Kremlin youth groups such as Nashi have swung into action. Set up in the aftermath of "colour revolutions" in post-Soviet states such as Georgia and Ukraine several years ago, the groups appear to have finally found their calling.

On Tuesday night, thousands of activists disrupted opposition protesters by banging drums and shouting support for Mr Putin. Yesterday, a stage emblazoned with "The future is ours!" was set up in Pushkin Square in Central Moscow, where pro-Kremlin activists gathered.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links