Putin under pressure as angry Russians take to streets
Published 10/12/2011 | 05:00
Tens of thousands of anti-Kremlin protesters are expected to take to the streets of Moscow today in the biggest demonstration of its kind since Vladimir Putin came to power more than 10 years ago.
The "For Fair Elections" protest follows the disputed parliamentary poll last weekend, which was won by the prime minister's United Russia party amid credible claims that it was rigged.
"It will be a red letter day in our history," Yevgeniya Chirikova, a prominent opposition activist, said. "We are not just taking to the streets but have demands. We want a rerun of the election and for all political prisoners to be released."
The protest follows a series of smaller demonstrations throughout the week.
Some Western commentators have tentatively suggested that this winter unrest has the potential to escalate into a 'Slavic Spring' akin to the protests across the Arab world.
But Mr Putin, who is determined to return to the presidency in May, has said he will not allow such a turn of events to unfold and has blamed America for stirring up unrest.
Organisers have conceded that events have the potential to spiral out of control.
"The Russian people are very unpredictable," said Miss Chirikova. "Once they are up in arms it is very difficult to stop them."
More than 60,000 people have said they plan to attend the protest, twice the number sanctioned by the authorities, giving them an excuse to make mass arrests.
More radical elements of the opposition have also promised to protest away from the authorised demonstration, at a site nearer the Kremlin -- an act the police have said they will move to prevent. ( © Daily Telegraph, London)