Ousted Russian Lawmaker Appears at Anti-Putin Rally

Posted September 15th, 2012 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Ousted Russian lawmaker Gennady Gudkov appeared before thousands of opposition supporters in the Russian capital Saturday, vowing to continue pressure on the government to hold new elections.

Gudkov, thrown out of the state Duma on Friday on what he said were false accusations, criticized the government of President Vladimir Putin as demonstrators in Moscow chanted anti-government slogans. During the first major anti-government demonstration in months, Gudkov accused the Putin government of repression and refusal to compromise.

Critics of the government have been calling for a re-run of the disputed December election that returned Putin to the presidency for an unprecedented third time.

Since his re-election, lawmakers have approved several measures cracking down on public protests, defamation, and nongovernmental organizations .

Members of the state Duma on Friday voted 291-150 to eject Gudkov from the legislature for allegedly violating a ban on operating a business while serving as a lawmaker. Gudkov, who has participated in anti-Putin rallies before, says the vote was the result of political pressure.

Lawmakers opposed to his ouster say it sets a dangerous precedent to force out lawmakers who criticize the president.

Saturday's protests were also the first since last month's sentencing of three members of the band Pussy Riot to two years in prison for hooliganism, for staging an anti-Putin performance in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral. Many of Saturday's protesters also carried signs or symbols referencing band members and calling for their release.

Smaller protests took place in several other Russian cities Saturday.