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Most massive opposition rally over 20 years held in Moscow

December 12, 2011, 14:24 UTC+3

According to the Interior Ministry data, it was attended by 25 thousand people, and according to the organisers, the number of the rally participants reached 150 thousand

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MOSCOW, December 12 (Itar-Tass) -- The most massive opposition rally over the past twenty years was staged in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on Saturday. According to the Interior Ministry data, it was attended by 25 thousand people, and according to the organisers, the number of the rally participants reached 150 thousand. Those who tried to do their own calculations say that at one time 60-70 thousand protesters gathered, but some people were coming and going. The main demands put forward by the participants in the action that has also for the first time in a long period united representatives of the system, non-system opposition and former apolitical Muscovites, were cancelling the results of the State Duma elections, resignation of the leadership of the Central Election Commission (CEC), registration of all political forces and their admission to elections, as well as the release of political prisoners. Rallies were held also in many other Russian cities. For the first time the federal TV channels made reports about the protests with a high degree of objectivity.

The rally in Moscow passed without incidents and provocation, the RF government’s Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily writes. The city dwellers of various political views and, so to speak, rally experience gathered in Bolotnaya Square – from professional anarchists, nationalists and Limonov’s supporters to yuppies and hipsters who for the first time came to a political event. They could be recognised by the unusual colours of the flags. There was no aggression, even mental, emanating from the police, says the publication.

President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his attitude to the Saturday rallies on his Facebook page in the Internet on Sunday, the newspaper continues. “Under the Constitution, Russian citizens enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. People have a right to express their position, which they did yesterday. It is good that everything was within the law,” he wrote in the social network. “I do not agree with any slogans or with the statements made at the meetings. Yet I issued instructions to check all the reports from the polling stations concerning the observance of the election law.”

The people who came to the rally could easily be divided into two groups: those who for the first time became the subject of street democracy by finding out everything they needed from Twitter and Facebook, and all the others, according to Kommersant. The first group included young people aged between 18 and 35. It was not, as they immediately began to claim on Sunday, the emerging middle class: most of them to become at least mediocre representatives of this class still have at least a few years to work actively for their own benefit. But these were people that any meeting could be proud of: sincere, not homeless, certainly having common sense, and finally, who have had a good breakfast. And these were people who were fed up with the current situation.

People on Saturday took to the streets not at all to listen to the leaders of Solidarity, PARNAS or the representatives of the Communist Party, Yabloko and Just Russia who finally emerged at the meeting, RBC Daily writes. The rally participants met the appearance on the stage of Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin with a united “boo” shout in disapproval. “It seems to me that part of the people will throw themselves into the river,” a nice young man, standing next to the RBC Daily reporter on the Bolotnaya embankment, said commenting on this. The crowd indeed told Mitrokhin, “Deputy, surrender your mandate!” National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov was not allowed on the stage at all. He was offended. “I was robbed of the revolution,” he complained to his comrades-in-arms.

Echo of Moscow Radio reported that first deputy chief of the Kremlin administration Vladislav Surkov allegedly gathered experts at the Staraya Square building and discussed with them how to proceed. Kremlin sources of RBC Daily did not confirm this information, but it became obvious that the Kremlin has reacted to what is happening when the federal TV channels at their final news programs showed with a high degree of objectivity the Bolotnaya Square rally. The country’s television has for the first time said that “tens of thousands of people” joined the protests against the falsification of elections in favour of United Russia and showed a real picture of the crowd. According to RBC Daily, the corresponding order came from the Kremlin made personally by the president.

According to police information, the total number of participants in rallies staged on Saturday in nearly 80 cities across the country was about 40 thousand people, Novye Izvestiya writes. The second largest action after Moscow was staged in St. Petersburg: with the declared 3 thousand it had gathered 10 thousand participants, according to the organisers, and according to the Interior Ministry - 7 thousand. A rally in Novosibirsk gathered 3.5 thousand participants.

To keep the capital’s young people from participation in rallies officials have paid unprecedented attention to the performance of schoolchildren, emphasises Moskovsky Komsomolets. Even those adolescents who were going to the rally had to urgently go to school. Their lessons’ time was shifted by several hours, and at 13:00 all high school students got an unscheduled Russian language test.

Is the revision of the previous agreements in the Putin-Medvedev tandem on the 2012 presidential election now possible? asks Nezavisimaya Gazeta. One group of experts believes that Putin and Medvedev will not give up their plans. For example, political scientist Boris Makarenko is certain that in this case the tandem would recognise United Russia’s defeat. However, he is confident that both the prime minister and president must draw conclusions from what is happening: “Such a political system is absolutely unusable.” The expert believes that one of the main mistakes of the authorities is the failure of the right-wing liberal project: “Had the authorities not strangled the Right Cause party of Mikhail Prokhorov, United Russia would have a reasonable partner on the right. Instead, the authorities made the urban middle class, which is centre-right in nature, to give their votes to the left.”

Director General of the Centre for Political Technologies Igor Bunin says, “Relations in the tandem are not perfect. Putin can – Medvedev has not coped with the task, fell short of expectations...” The expert believes that “the prime minister is unlikely to backtrack. Today, however, “there is another pattern on which Medvedev is offered the speaker’s post. As the situation after the election failure got hung up.” Bunin does not think that Medvedev will agree to this option: “The president is immersed in endless doubts. He has no firm line of conduct.”

Medvedev, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta source said, as a result of all these manoeuvres, is losing respect of the liberally-minded electorate and the public: “He is no longer seen by many as a serious politician.”

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