Protesters encircle Moscow city centre in anti-Putin rally
Tens of thousands of Muscovites formed a human chain and encircled the centre of their city yesterday, in the latest protest against Vladimir Putin.
A week before elections that are set to return the Prime Minister to the Kremlin for a six-year term as President, protesters lined pavements for 10 miles along the entirety of the Garden Ring, the multi-lane highway that circles central Moscow.
After the demonstrations that followed the victory of Mr Putin's United Russia party in last December's parliamentary elections, there was a feeling the mood of protest may have been on the wane. But yesterday's turnout suggests that the movement, mainly made up of liberal, middle-class Russians but also joined by assorted nationalists and radicals, is growing rather than fading.
The number of people was difficult to gauge, but opposition leaders claimed 100,000 people had come out, most of whom wore white ribbons, the symbol of the protest movement, and carried anti-Putin slogans in the swirling snow.
Police put the number at 11,000. However, before the demonstration it had been estimated that 34,000 people would be needed to fully line the ring road, and in many places, the crowds were several people thick.
Hundreds of cars joined in the protest by beeping their horns in solidarity with those on the pavement. Some had attached banners and posters to their vehicles, while others seemed to be joining the protest spontaneously, grabbing whatever they had at hand that was white – a scarf, tissue, plastic bag, or in one case a white-haired pet dog – and waving it from the car windows.
"I want our country to develop more," said Margarita, a 66-year-old former teacher who was attending her first protest since those in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. "There should be less corruption and better people in power."
The contrast between the atmosphere at yesterday's protest, and the feeling at the Luzhniki Stadium last Thursday, when Mr Putin addressed 100,000 of his own supporters, could not have been more different. There, the majority had been bussed in, banners were mass-produced and handed out beforehand. Yesterday, banners were home-made and, although the protest was supposed to last for an hour, two hours later the pavements were still packed. It passed off largely peacefully, with minimal police intervention.
"Everyone is very happy, look at the smiles on people's faces," said Yevgenia Chirikova, one of the demonstration's informal leaders. "This is exactly the sort of protest we need. We don't need a revolution, we can overcome evil with good. There's still every chance that Putin won't win the election."
The polls suggest she is wrong, however, with one last week claiming that 44 per cent of Russians would vote for Mr Putin. Among those who are definitely planning to vote on Sunday, the figure rises to 66 per cent.
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...
£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Commercial Manager is required to join a lea...