Putin critics gather in Moscow to condemn ‘stolen’ Russian election
Russia’s Communist Party has organised a protest in central Moscow over “colossal” fraud in September’s parliamentary election, leading to police detentions.
The police did not disperse the unregistered protest – the first significant anti-government gathering since this month’s election – but played loud music to drown out the protest’s speakers.
“Allez, Russia!” blared one patriotic tune from the police and another declared, “Uncle Vladimir, we’re with you”.
Among those detained were Sergei Udaltsov, leader of a far-left organisation, Left Front, according to OVD-Info, which records opposition detentions.
Plain-clothed officers moved through the crowd and uniformed police used loudspeakers to warn protesters that it was an illegal gathering.
President Vladimir Putin celebrated United Russia’s “convincing victory”. The strongman leader said Russian democracy was growing stronger while he hosted the leaders of five political parties to win parliamentary seats in the September 17-19 election, including Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov.
Putin said the new lower house for the first time since 1999 would have five factions instead of four, saying it pointed to “democratic development”.
Putin’s United Russia won a sweeping parliamentary majority, despite increased signs of the party’s growing unpopularity.
The authorities have jailed leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny and outlawed his anti-government organisations.
Many Russians voted Communist in protest against Putin’s one-party rule.
More than 1,000 protesters at Pushkin Square on Saturday listened to Communist speakers describe the election as stolen.
Protesters chanted “Russia will be free”, “Putin is a thief” and “Russia without Putin” and called for the release of political prisoners and for an election recount.
Not all the protesters were Communist supporters but wider, anti-Putin activists.
Some protesters at the rally said they did not support Communism as a political ideology but were protesting against electoral fraud.
The Communist Party criticised the electronic voting results in Moscow which reported how early Communist leads had reversed during the vote, saying the system lacks transparency.
Electronic ballots swayed eight constituencies back to United Russia in a way Communists said was unrealistic.
Valery Rashkin, first secretary of the Communist Party in Moscow, told protesters: “United Russia has stolen lawmaker mandates. There’s been colossal voter fraud in Moscow.”
Rashkin called United Russia a gang of “self-appointees”.
He said his party would contest the election results.
Rashkin is probably the most outspoken senior Communist while Zyuganov has repeatedly urged restraint and visited Putin’s residence outside the capital.
Valery Rashkin, first secretary of the Communist Party in Moscow, addresses protesters. Picture credit: Wikimedia