The Moscow Mayor’s Office received an application for organisation of a rally supporting presidential candidate Vladimir Putin. The act is planned in a form of a march on February 23 along Tverskaya Street, which would finish at Manezhnaya Square. Organisers plan to set a record by attracting 200,000 participants to the event. The prime minister will be invited to deliver a speech. The opposition is preparing its response.
According to the organisers, the rally will feature not only Muscovites, but representatives of Russia’s regions, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports. Head of the election headquarters Stanislav Govorukhin says that lately and especially after the rally on Poklonnaya Gora, they received many suggestions, letters and requests for the organisation of a mass rally supporting Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 23, the Defender of the Fatherland Day. As of now, the rally is planned to be organised on Manezhnaya Square, but Stanislav Govorukhin said that organisers may consider a march to Manezhnaya Square if the city authorities approve it. “This is a big event. The slogan is ‘Let’s Defend our Fatherland!’, and the rest, I believe, will happen as it will, as an improvisation,” the head of Putin’s election headquarters said.
The rally “Let’s Defend our Fatherland” is planned to be a continuation of the rally supporting Putin, which took place on February 4 on Poklonnaya Gora, Kommersant reports. Moscow’s police reported that the rally gathered from 138 to 146 thousand participants, while organisers of the rally “For Honest Elections” claimed the number is overrated. At the same time, the Internet users left hundreds of comments stating that not all participants in that rally came their voluntarily. Using the so-called administrative resource, hundreds of people working for Moscow municipal authorities, schools, universities, the pension fund, Sberbank, Mail of Russia and for some fuel and energy companies were forced to attend the event.
Deputy Head of Putin’s election headquarters Alexei Anisimov said they were planning to send an invitation to Putin to make a speech. “We shall ask our candidate to participate, though he will make the final decision himself,” the newspaper quotes Anisimov as saying. He does not doubt the rally’s initial route will be approved. “I’d like to see them not allow it to Vladimir Putin’s election headquarters,” he said.
Kommersant writes that organisers of the rally “For Honest Elections” wanted to have their event on February 4 on Manezhnaya Square. But the Mayor’s Office did not allow it to them, explaining that “Manezhnaya Square is next to the Moscow Kremlin, historic and cultural reserve, and organization of any public events in places of this kind are forbidden.”
The organizing committee of the rallies "For Honest Elections" in Moscow on February 4 will make a decision on further joint actions early next week, the newspaper reports. As of now, the most popular idea is to have a civil rally immediately after the presidential election – on March 5. Additionally, the Big White Circle rally is due to take place on February 26. Its participants are planning to go to the Garden Ring and hold hands. In order to have the chain form a circle, organisers will have to attract 34,000 participants. Coordinator of Left Front Sergei Udaltsov told the newspaper reporters that he would call his accomplices to come to the rally on February 23 “to talk to its participants, to explain their positions and to look into their eyes.”
RBC quotes Yevgeniya Chirikova, head of the Ecodefence movement, saying that the format of the opposing action in late February is not clear as of yet. The leader of Moscow region’s ecologists is sure that much more people may come to the new protesting rallies: “It is only a beginning.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes a Communist deputy Oleg Kulikov, who said that United Russia would be reformed “because clearly Putin is keeping at a distance from it.” This view is shared by Ilya Shablinsky, Doctor of Law, Professor of the Higher School of Economy: “Everything will depend on the situation in the country after the election. On how the political reform progresses. If the provision about organising blocs is back in the legislation, the All-Russian Popular Front may be used to organise a new party. Together with United Russia it will form the necessary majority in the coming Duma.”