Rally in Moscow ends without clashes

Updated: 2011-12-12 08:01

(China Daily)

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Rally in Moscow ends without clashes
An opposition activist shouts during a protest rally in central Moscow on Saturday against alleged fraud in the Dec 4 parliamentary polls. [Yuri Kadobnov / Agence France-Presse]

MOSCOW - Tens of thousands of Russians staged a peaceful protest on Saturday against alleged fraud in the Dec 4 parliamentary elections.

The Moscow rally, the biggest demonstration of the nationwide wave of protests across Russia, took place in Bolotnaya Square, across the Moskva River from the Kremlin.

The city's authorities originally gave permission for a 30,000- strong rally in the much smaller downtown Revolution Square, but later changed the venue.

Rally organizers claimed that about 40,000 people had gathered at the square and 10,000 others joined later by marching from Revolution Square. But according to the Interior Ministry, there were some 25,000 protesters in Moscow.

One hour before the rally began, many protesters already started to pass police security checks and entered the square, holding flags and banners reading "Call for fair elections" and "We demand vote recount".

Some of the banners targeted the country's top leaders, urging them to step down.

"I just feel sick of the regime. But I think the opposition is too motley to be able to change the current situation," Alexander Petayev, a computer programmer, said in Bolotnaya Square.

A retired military officer, who called himself Victor, said he came to "defend" this country.

"I defended Russia all my career from external threats and now I think I must defend it from inside," he said.

Most protesters admitted they just want the opposition to be heard, and were not expecting another revolution in the country.

"I hope the authorities can know how strong the (opposition) voice is. I want to see gradual changes, not another revolution," said online advertising practitioner Tatyana.

Two girls holding sun-flowers said they carried the flowers to demonstrate a calm way of expressing their anger.

There was no comment from the Kremlin or the ruling party on Saturday.

But Andrei Isayev, a senior official of the ruling party United Russia, said the party would take account of the demands voiced by the protesters.

"There is no doubt that people have a right to protest against the result of the vote or against the way it was handled. I assure you we will hear this rally," he was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

Big protests were also held on Saturday in some 20 other cities of Russia, from the far eastern city of Vladivostok to the westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad, according to local media.

Massive opposition protests against the alleged vote fraud in favor of United Russia took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg following the Dec 4 elections, in which United Russia gained 238 out of 450 seats in the new State Duma.