Russians defy cold and rally for Putin to resign
Published 05/02/2012 | 05:00
ANTI-GOVERNMENT protesters returned to Moscow's streets with renewed vigour and a more defiantly anti-Putin message yesterday, despite temperatures that plunged to -20C.
A vast column of people under communist, liberal and nationalist banners marched from a central Moscow square to rally on Bolotnaya Ploshchad across the Moskva river from the Kremlin.
Although the title of the demo was 'For Free Elections', the prime sentiment of many demonstrators seemed to be getting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to resign.
Chants of "Putin, leave!" and banners with variations on the theme of "Putin, you're fired!" predominated.
Police estimated "up to 40,000" people attended the march, though several Russian newspapers put the number closer to 100,000.
Pundits had warned that the protest movement -- a motley alliance including westernising liberals, communists and monarchist nationalists -- had shown signs of fracture and fatigue after pulling off the largest anti-government protests since the Nineties in December.
But instead of staying home, and in defiance of advice from the country's top doctor who warned people not to go out, the crowd lapped up the cold, singing along with Russian rock legend Yuri Shevchuk in a rendition of a song called Moroz ('Frost').
Protesters, many of whom were dressed in furs and ski gear, cheered "The sun is with us!" as clouds cleared.
Meanwhile, pro-Putin groups held a counter-demonstration in the south west of the city, dubbed 'We Have Much to Lose'. Police estimated 138,000 people rallied at the pro-Putin event.