03 Mar 2012

Weekend of Massive Protests in Russia

(by Magda Barascu)

Tens of thousands of Muscovites protested on Saturday alleged electoral fraud and urged an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule. Demands repeated at other rallies across the country in the largest public show of discontent in post-Soviet Russia.

Participants in the demonstration included activists of the A Just Russia party, the unregistered People’s Freedom Party (Parnas), the Communist Party and the Blue Ribbon and Internet Community public movements.

The demonstrators also included representatives of the interregional Ussuriysk Cossack military society, the Khabarovsk scout organization, residents of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and the Khabarovsk Territory, members of garage cooperatives and a group of nationalists.

The demonstrators carried posters calling for fair elections and against a third presidential term for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The demonstration took place just a week before presidential elections in Russia, in which Putin is widely expected to win his third term in the Kremlin.

Protests took place in more than 50 other cities from the Pacific Coast to the southwest, including a large demonstration estimated by police at 7,000 people in Saint Petersburg.

Opposition figures indicated Friday that the next step would be to call another protest in Moscow for next weekend and make it even bigger. But staged events at regular intervals may be less effective than daily spontaneous protests.

Russia’s opposition also is vulnerable to attacks on the websites and social media that have nourished the protests. This week, an official of Vkontakte, a Russian version of Facebook, reported pressure from the FSB, the KGB’s main successor, to block access to opposition groups, but said his company refused.

On election day, the websites of a main independent radio station and the country’s only independent election-monitoring group fell victim to denial-of-service hacker attacks.


The picture featured above is credited to AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky.