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100,000 Brave Cold for Anti-Putin Rally
February 5, 2012

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In the largest demonstration yet, more than 100,000 Russians braved freezing weather to march through downtown Moscow to protest against the intended resumption of the presidency by Vladimir Putin. The former president, now the prime minister, has announced his intention to run again for president, and recent polls show him comfortably ahead of other likely candidates.

Despite temperatures dropping to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, a large crowd dressed up heavy winter clothing and sported the white ribbons that have become the symbol of the anti-Putin movement. They marched about a mile, chanting anti-Putin slogans as they went, listened to a few speeches, then released white balloons into the sky before dispersing peacefully. Thousands of police made their presence known along the route but did nothing more. In previous years, police have broken up such protests, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

On the same day, 5,000 people gathered in St. Petersburg with the same intent. Smaller rallies took place in dozens of other cities across the country. A pro-Putin rally in Moscow drew 20,000 people, most of whom had been transported into the downtown on buses.

Putin is expected to win the most votes on election day, March 4. Opposing him will be four people: three leaders of parliamentary parties, all previous opponents, and Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire who now owns the NBA team the New Jersey Nets. Prokhorov, who only recently announced his candidacy, attended the anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow but did not give a speech.

The election will feature a runoff between the two top vote-getters if no one candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote.



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