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Russian Police Confront Anti-Putin Protesters
May 6, 2012

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On the eve of Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency, hundreds of Russians clashed violently with police in Moscow.

Tens of thousands of people gathered to show their disapproval of Putin, but only a few hundred engaged in the scuffle, which saw some protesters wielding flagpoles against police wielding batons. Riot police formed a strict line, preventing the protesters from crossing a bridge over the Moscow river and marching on the Kremlin. A news photographer fell to his death from a balcony while trying to photograph the proceedings. Dozens of people were injured.

Protesters gathered in the hundreds in several large cities across the country (including Vladivostok, where protesters marched carrying a black coffin emblazoned with the word "democracy"), a day before Putin was to be sworn in during a lavish ceremony inside the Kremlin that would include a blessing from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Ironically, Putin was in a church service at the time of the Sunday protests.

Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008 and has been prime minister since then, will swap jobs with Dmitry Medvedev, who has been president since 2008. The Russian constitution prohibits leaders from serving more than three consecutive terms but does not put a cap on overall record of service, meaning that Putin, 59, would be free to be re-elected at the next election and then, conceivably, run again after one term out of office.

Putin won nearly two-thirds of the vote in the March 4 presidential election, which was preceded and followed by LINK very large protests in Russia's largest cities. The frequency of and attendance at such protests has dropped precipitously since then.



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