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Thousands Protest Against Putin, Russian Elections
December 11, 2011

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Huge numbers of protesters filled squares in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and 60 other cities across Russia, to speak out against what they perceived to be election fraud. 

Tens of thousands of people packed Bototnaya Square, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, the seat of government, to cheer a speech by former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, the leader of an opposition movement not allowed to take part in the recent elections.

By far the largest crowd was in Moscow, where observers reported people packed so deep in one of the main squares that they had to stand on one another's toes. The crowd in St. Petersburg was much smaller, just 7,000 people. Crowds up to 1,000 people gathered in dozens of other cities across the country. 

The protests were the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union. Police reported about 100 arrests nationwide.

Russian voters and independent observers reported many instances of voter fraud in the elections of a week ago, which resulted in a drop in representation for United Russia, the political party of former President Vladimir Putin. Observers said the drop would have been worse if not for what they alleged was fraud in the form of stuffing the ballot boxes.

President Dmitry Medvedev has announced an investigation into the allegations, but neither he nor Putin made an appearance in public after the demonstrations. Earlier this year, the two agreed to swap roles. Putin was President from 2000 to 2008, but existing term limits prohibited him from serving three consecutive terms.

Putin and Medvedev are by no means entirely unpopular in the country, which has a much larger population than the tens of thousands who gathered for the opposition protests. Indeed, one leader of the United Russia party said that he could personally deliver more than 100,000 people for a pro-government rally very soon. 

The next planned anti-government protest will take place in Moscow on December 24. 



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