'Putin is a thief' cry Russians as inspectors attack vote

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Protesters arrested as problems emerge with landslide win


A day after Vladimir Putin won a return to the Kremlin for six years, thousands of Russians took to a central Moscow square last night to decry Vladimir Putin's reelection as illegitimate, while the only international observer body monitoring the elections said that there were "serious problems" with the vote.  

Mr Putin's supporters waved Russian flags and danced outside the Kremlin for a second evening but 10 minutes' walk away at Pushkin Square, the anti-Putin opposition gathered around 20,000 Muscovites who chanted "Putin is a thief" and "Russia will be free".  Some stayed behind afterwards, and police arrested over 200 people at the square, including the protest leader Alexei Navalny.

Central Moscow felt like a city under siege, as riot police poured out from rows of dozens of army trucks parked in neat rows outside the Bolshoi Theatre and at other locations in the historical centre. There were armoured vehicles, radio trucks and even a camouflaged field kitchen, all to ensure that radical elements of the opposition did not attempt to march on the Kremlin.  

Although the police estimated the crowd at 14,000, organisers said it was much higher. Either way, it was less than the roughly 100,000 people who came out to the biggest protest in the aftermath of parliamentary elections, but this was also the first protest to be held on a working day.  

With almost all the votes counted by yesterday evening, Mr Putin had won nearly 64 per cent, and his supporters say his winning margin was unquestionable. But an observer mission from the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe said there were irregularities with the count at almost one third of the polling stations under observation, while the US State Department called on Russia to investigate allegations of fraud.  

Golos, Russia's only independent election monitoring watchdog, said that based on its reports from monitors, Mr Putin's result was very close to the 50 per cent margin required to avoid a second-round runoff. Vladimir Churov, the head of Russia's Central Election Committee, who became something a hate figure for the opposition after parliamentary elections in December, rebuffed all such criticism yesterday. He said that many foreign election observers were actually spies in disguise, and that Russia had the fairest and most honest elections of any country in the world.  

In Moscow, the hub of protests by the new Russian middle class, Mr Putin only received around 48 per cent of the vote, with the oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov taking second place with nearly 20 per cent (nationally he polled just 8 per cent). The chief of Mr Prokhorov's campaign team said yesterday he was planning to emigrate in disgust at how the vote had gone, while the oligarch himself put in an appearance at the opposition rally, promising to set up a new political party that would meet the demands of angry Muscovites.  

Mr Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger who has become one of the leaders of the protest movement, addressed the crowd in typical tub-thumping fashion, and drew the biggest cheer of the evening. He referred to the Russian elite as being "sick with bulimia", saying that those in charge of Russia have "eaten all the oil, they've eaten all the gas, and they are still hungry for more". He later led the crowd in a chant of "Putin is a thief", as riot police surrounded Pushkin Square from all sides and a police helicopter hovered overhead.  

After the rally, Mr Navalny and some of the other leaders said they planned to remain on the square until Mr Putin leaves office, setting up a tent camp if necessary.  Within an hour, the riot police moved in to detain them, with squadrons of police chasing groups of protesters through the streets and detaining those who refused to disperse. Alyona Popova, an opposition politician, said her arm had been broken in the melee. Around 300 people were also arrested in St Petersburg. Mr Navalny was released shortly after midnight, and on the steps of the police station promised that he would continue the protest movement "until the end".

Numbers game: percentages from the Russian election

64: Official percentage of vote won by Vladimir Putin

50: Putin's share according to watchdog, Golos

48.7: Putin's percentage in Moscow – the only electoral district where he failed to achieve an absolute majority

17: Share of vote for second-placed Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader

Suggested Topics
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform