Fury at Medvedev Facebook post
Published 12/12/2011 | 05:00
Dmitry Medvedev was humiliated on the internet yesterday after a message he posted on Facebook denouncing Saturday's 50,000-strong rally in Moscow drew criticism from thousands of protesters.
The Russian president's online post, which came on the same day that the controversial head of the elections commission avoided an attempt to remove him, sparked disbelief and disgust and within two hours more than 3,500 people had posted comments, the vast majority overwhelmingly negative.
Mr Medvedev used the message to announce he had ordered an investigation into violations at the Russian parliamentary elections. He also criticised Saturday's demonstration -- the biggest protest in Russia since the end of the Soviet Union.
"People have the right to express their views which is what they did yesterday," wrote Mr Medvedev. "I don't agree with the slogans or the declaration that rang out at the meetings. Nevertheless, instructions have been given by me to check all information from polling stations regarding compliance with the legislation on elections."
The crowds had directed their anger at the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who is expected to become president again in March.
The movement has sprung up spontaneously as mainly young Russians protest at what they see as election fraud and a lack of political freedom. Protesters called for the election to be rerun and for Vladimir Churov, the head of the elections commission, to be sacked.
Noticeably, many of those taking part were from the Facebook generation, fluent in social media. Mr Medvedev's attempts to engage them yesterday, however, backfired.
"Go now, shame of the country," "Dim, are you taking the mick?" and "Your time has gone, everything was decided yesterday, democracy will be created not by you," were some of the milder comments posted in response to Mr Medvedev's message.
The post was the first official response from an increasingly nervous Russian government and suggests that the Kremlin is struggling to deal with a movement which has grown rapidly since 5,000 people came out to protest after the December 4 elections.
Another mass street demonstration is due today in Moscow as supporters of Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev gather at the Kremlin.
Mr Medvedev's Facebook gaffe comes after the Kremlin was forced to apologise after an obscene Twitter message that was retweeted by mistake from the president's official account.
The original message, written by an outgoing MP, attacked detractors of the ruling United Russia party as "sheep" who had been subjected to a sex act. (© Daily Telegraph, London)