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Over 50,000 expected to gather for protest rally in Moscow

December 24, 2011, 3:58 UTC+3
It will be the second major protest rally to be held in Moscow in connection with the reports about numerous violations and fraud in the State Duma election
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MOSCOW, December 24 (Itar-Tass) —— A rally "For Honest Elections", which is permitted by authorities, will take place on Sakharov Avenue in Moscow on Saturday.

It will be the second major protest rally to be held in the Russian capital in connection with the media and Internet reports about numerous violations and fraud in the December 4 State Duma election.

The meeting is organized by opposition movements, which notified in the application that the rally would number 50,000 people. However, there may be more. At least in social networks that have become the main ground to prepare the meeting and inform about it, more than 60,000 have confirmed their intention to participate. Almost 46,000 of them are Facebook users. The number of those wishing to come for the previous meeting at Bolotnaya Square on December 10 was almost 7,000 fewer.

For this time, the organizers have prepared for it better technically as well. They say there will be three large screens, good equipment for loud sound and field kitchens. Almost four million roubles have been collected through social networks to organize the rally.

Among the announced speakers are blogger Alexei Navalny, writer Boris Akunin, man of letters Dmitry Bykov, opposition Solidarity leaders Boris Nemtsov, Garry Kasparov, Ilya Yashin, parliament member Gennady Gudkov from the Just Russia party and TV person Ksenia Sobchak.

Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky said about his intention to speak at the meeting. Video addresses of Leonid Parfyonov, Vladimir Pozner (TV commentators) and Yuri Shevchuk (a rock singer and song writer) will be shown on the screens. The organizers say ex-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, who intends to run for the Russian presidency, will also participate. Some other speakers will be approved by the organizers on the basis of representation from various political forces. Eduard Limonov, a writer and an opposition party leader, has refused to participate in the meeting.

The Moscow police department has assured police will take appropriate measures to ensure public order and security. The police remind that the organizers are responsible for the citizens' security.

The organizers, in turn, call on the participants not to give in to provocations of extremists.

People will go to the rally through 49 metal detectors from the side of Kalanchyovskaya Street. There will be no access from Sadovaya-Spasskaya Street, where the stage will be placed, and from side streets.

Moscow police said transport traffic would be blocked on Sakharov Avenue from Sadovaya-Spasskya to Kalanchyovskaya Street and also on Kalanchyovskaya Street from Sadovaya-Spasskaya to Building 21/40 on Saturday from 01:00 until the end of the meeting.

A map of the way to the meeting is published in the Moscow police site.

A symbol of the rally again is a white ribbon.

On December 10, according to police, about 30,000 people gathered for the opposition rally on Bolotnaya Square. According to other sources, there were at least twice as many. At the meeting, the opposition said it would organize a new rally of many thousands in two weeks.

"We will come until our demands are met. In any case, December 24 must become a single day of actions," the Bolotnaya rally organizers said. The meeting resulted in a final resolution comprising five demands -- release of political prisoners, annulment of the State Duma election results, resignation of Central Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov and investigation into his activities, registration of all political parties and democratizations of the legislation in this area and holding of new parliamentary elections.

Churov himself said he did not intend to resign, and the CEC stated new unlawful pre-election technologies emerged in Russia -- reports about mass violations in elections.

After the Bolotnaya Square rally, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in his blog wrote that he disagreed with the slogans and the statements voiced at the meetings. Nevertheless, he gave directions to check all the reports about violations in the elections, and the Interior Ministry and the Investigative Committee have already presented a report to him in this connection.

On Thursday, Medvedev in his address to the Federal Assembly (parliament) suggested a comprehensive reform of the country's internal political system. Among his initiatives are direct elections of governors, a simplified procedure of registration of parties, abolition of collection of signatures to participate in elections to the State Duma and regional legislatures and reduction of the number of signatures to participate in Russian presidential elections.

The president said he heeded those who spoke about the necessity of changes. He submitted corresponding bills to the State Duma already on Friday.

Commenting on his address, former Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, elected State Duma Speaker, said the proposals were made not under the pressure of Bolotnaya Square, but they had been under consideration since the beginning of this year.

At the same time, First Kremlin Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov admitted that to give way to reasonable demands of the active part of the society was not a forced manoeuvre of the authorities, but their constitutional duty.

Earlier, in the "direct line" with Russians, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed satisfaction that young active people came to meetings to state their position. "If this is a result of Putin's regime, it is good. I am pleased with it," he said. "The fact that people express their views on processes happening in the country is an absolutely normal thing when everybody acts within the law," Putin believes. "I hope it will be so," the premier added.

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