Russian activists defiant despite disappointing rally turnout | News | DW | 10.03.2012
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Russian activists defiant despite disappointing rally turnout

Opposition rallies to demonstrate against last week's Russian presidential election saw a drop in numbers. Police arrested a few dozen protesters.

Protesters took to the streets of Moscow on Saturday to demonstrate against last weekend's presidential election, which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won outright.

Saturday's turnout was far below the 50,000 that the city of Moscow had approved. Organizers said around 30,000 turned out to the rally, while police sources put the figure at just 10,000.

Despite the fact that the rallies had been approved, the Moscow demonstration and another in Russia's second city, St. Petersburg, ended with police arresting a few dozen protesters.

Among them was one of the organizers, Sergei Udaltsov of the Left Front movement. Police said he had been detained for "provocation." He was released from custody later in the day but is facing charges that could see him spend up to 15 days in jail. Despite the arrests, the protests were mainly peaceful.

Defiance despite lower turnout

Although the numbers that turned out to the rallies were clearly fewer than the organizers had hoped for, opposition activists said they were determined to fight on.

"We have clear demands: political reforms and fresh elections. We will continue to demand the release of all political prisoners," leading activist Vladimir Ryzhkov told the Interfax news agency.

Some blamed the disappointing numbers on the fact that it was the third day of a national holiday, and many people were out of town. Others, though, said the protests, which began after December's parliamentary elections, were bound to lose momentum after the presidential vote.

"It's normal that the rallies are dying down," said political analyst Dimitry Oreskin, who addressed the Moscow protest. "We need something else, a move to political activity."

Opposition activists say last Sunday's election, which Putin won with almost 64 percent of the vote, was marred by widespread vote-rigging. International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also said that the polls were tilted in favor of the president-elect.

After spending one term as prime minister under President Dimitry Medvedev, Putin is set to enter his third stint as president. A constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential terms had kept him out of the post for the past four years.

pfd/sjt (AP, dpa, AFP)