Up to 120,000 Russian anti-government protesters demand political reform as Putin supporters stage counter-rally.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have braved temperatures of -18C in Moscow to march through the city shouting „Russia without Putin“ and calling for a rerun of disputed elections.
In the latest of a series of mass gatherings since allegations of widespread government vote-rigging at the parliamentary poll on 4 December, the protesters walked an agreed route from Oktyabrskaya metro station to Bolotnaya Square, near the Kremlin.
Much of the protesters‘ anger is focused on the prime minister and defacto leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who earlier likened their white ribbons – worn as a symbol of solidarity – to condoms.
„Under Putin, so many thieves have come to power,“ said Ivan Frolov, 28, an engineer. „The authorities are totally closed, they don’t talk to the people. We want to choose leaders who listen to us. And we don’t want to worship a single person.“
Analysts say nascent discontent – especially among the urban middle class – grew in September when President Dmitry Medvdev, who is perceived as being a more liberal figure, announced he would not run for a second term, leaving Putin free this spring to return to the presidency, which he held from 2000 to 2008.