Russian Capital Witness to Third Anti-Putin Rally

Posted February 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Despite bitter cold temperatures and facing a presidential election just one month of away, tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Moscow and other Russian cities on Saturday.

A large crowd opposed to the candidacy of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin filled the streets of the Russian capital while a pro-Putin rally was held a few kilometers away.

Just across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, anti-government protesters shouted “Russia without Putin” in the third such demonstration since the December 4 parliamentary election.

Opposition politicians claim Mr. Putin's United Russia party stole one million votes in that election in order to maintain control of the lower house. They have been calling for a rerun of the election and reform of Russia's political system, as well as the release of political prisoners.

Moscow media reported complaints from state employees — teachers, nurses, and post office workers — that they were forced to attend the pro-Putin demonstration in order to show support for the man who has been the effective leader of Russia for the past 12 years and is now seeking another six years as president.

Mr. Putin served two four-year presidential terms from 2000 to 2008 before becoming prime minister. Polls show he is poised to win a third term in the March 4 election despite his declining popularity.