Thousands contest Vladimir Putin's victory at Moscow rally
Thousands of Russians gathered today for a massive rally to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's victory in Russia's presidential election, chanting "Shame!" and "Russia without Putin!"
Demonstrators are contesting the outcome of the vote, pointing to a campaign heavily slanted in Putin's favor and to reports of widespread violations in yesterday's ballot.
Putin won more than 63 per cent of the vote according to the nearly complete official returns, but the opposition and independent observers say the election has been marred by massive fraud.
"The campaign has been unfair, cowardly and treacherous," said opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky, who had been denied registration for the race on a technicality.
International election monitors pointed at the lack of real competition and said the vote count "was assessed negatively" in almost a third of polling stations observers visited.
The violations in the vote added fuel to today's protest in downtown Moscow by Putin's foes, who are demanding an end to his 12-year rule. The rally, which follows a series of massive previous protests, has been sanctioned by authorities but security was tight, with some 12,000 police deployed to ensure order.
"We are going to hold new elections," said Yevgeny Natarov, a 38-year old Moscow resident who attended the opposition protest.
Sergei Udaltsov, one of the organisers, urged protesters to stay on Moscow's iconic Pushkin Square until Putin steps down.
"If it was a free election, why have they flooded the entire city of troops?" Udaltsov shouted to the crowd, which responded with cries: "They fear us!"
The police presence was intense near the site of today's protest and other areas of the capital, with dozens of trucks carrying riot shield-wielding police and vans used for detaining protesters parked around downtown. Prosecutors warned the rally's organisers they would face criminal responsibility for any unsactioned protests.
Police quickly rounded up Eduard Limonov, the leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party and several dozen of his supporters, who attempted to hold an unsanctioned protest near the headquarters of Russia's main security agency.
About 100 protesters were also arrested in St Petersburg, where about 2,000 gathered for an unauthorised rally.
The independent Russian elections watchdog Golos said today that incomplete reports from its observers of individual polling station counts contradicted the official vote count, indicating that Putin hovered perilously close to the 50-per cent mark needed for a first-round victory.
"It's one pixel away from a second round," said Golos' Roman Udot.
Putin's win was assured as he faced a weak slate of Kremlin-approved candidates and many across the vast country still see him as a guarantor of stability and the defender of a strong Russia against a hostile world, an image he has carefully cultivated during 12 years in power. He has denounced his foes as Western stooges working to weaken Russia.
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 3 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 4 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
Isis 'bulldozes' Nimrud: UNESCO condemns destruction of ancient Assyrian site as a 'war crime'
Professor Brian Cox brands astrology-believing Tory MP David Tredinnick an 'outlier on the spectrum of reason'
Lynch mob kills suspected rapist in India after dragging him naked for four miles through city
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...
£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...