Series of post-election rallies flood Moscow

Series of post-election rallies flood Moscow

PanARMENIAN.Net - Communists and supporters of president-elect Vladimir Putin took to the streets of Moscow, filled with police, in separate rallies on Monday, March 5 ahead of the main event of the night, a rally of Putin’s opponents on downtown Pushkin Square.

Police said about 10,000 rallied at the Manezh Square by the Kremlin walls to hail Putin’s victory at Sunday’s presidential polls, where he trounced the rivals with 63 percent of the vote, according to preliminary data from Central Election Commission.

Speakers at the pro-Putin event included sports and showbiz celebrities, who congratulated Putin on his victory while denouncing the opposition’s claims that campaigning was unfair and the vote was rigged.

Prime Minister Putin, 59, is returning to the Kremlin for a third non-consecutive term in office.

One kilometer from the pro-Putin event down the Tverskaya Street, a rally by the Communist party, whose candidate Gennady Zyuganov was the runner-up on Sunday with 17 percent of the vote, took place at Pushkin Square.

Police said some 250 showed up for the event, which kicked off at 6 p.m.

But the Communist show was only a warm-up for a broader grassroots protest, which kicked off in the same place an hour later.

About 10,000 signed up on Facebook for the rally, titled “For Fair Elections.” Its organizers insist the Sunday vote was unfair and demand a repeat presidential vote.

City Hall was reluctant to sanction the grassroots protest rally, denying organizers all three preferred venues last week. Only after some 5,000 signed up, also on Facebook, to rally in defiance of the ban, did the Moscow authorities and the organizers work out a compromise.

Police invited opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Ilya Yashin for a “prophylactic talk” ahead of the rally on Monday, but both refused to attend.

Dozens of trucks with riot police rolled into downtown Moscow on Monday, numerous photos by media and bloggers showed. City police officials threatened to crack down on anyone violating rules for public rallies.

Four massive anti-Putin rallies took place in Moscow since the parliamentary elections in December, each gathering tens of thousands. All ended without incidents, even earning them praise from Putin for their peaceful nature.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said the event on Pushkin Square will be followed at 9 p.m. by a flashmob in which silent protesters encircle the Kremlin in a human chain.

Police said the event is illegal and would be dispersed, Ekho Moskvy liberal radio reported. However, law enforcements did not intervene with a similar flashmob on February 26 in which some 18,000 opponents of Putin, according to a RIA Novosti headcount, lined up along the downtown Garden Ring in Moscow.

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