The biggest opposition rally in recent Russian history has taken place in the capital. The protest against the results of Russia’s December 4 parliamentary election has drawn an estimated turnout of between 25,000 and 40,000.
The rally has been held on Bolotnaya Square, in Central Moscow, on December 10 between 2 pm and 6 pm.
The square is almost empty, except for media crews and a few groups of youngsters, say police.
Earlier the Interior Ministry reported around 25,000 people gathered at the scene. However opposition leaders claim up to 40,000 on the square.
Before the rally police have blocked access to the squares adjacent to the Kremlin and have restricted entry to Red Square.
Security in the capital has been stepped up with police trucks and Interior Ministry troops surrounding the scene. Moscow police say security will be tightened in the city until nightfall to prevent possible incidents.
People who came out to protest in central Moscow today were of all ages and backgrounds, reports Itar-Tass news agency. There were young people, the middle-aged and pensioners. Many came with white ribbons, balloons and flowers. Supporters of different parties and movements were present on Bolotnaya Square. Banners belonging to the liberal Yabloko party, the Communists, the “Solidarity” movement and the Russian Federation of Car-Owners could be seen.
The event has passed off peacefully, with no arrests made.
However, fire torches have been lit among the nationalist contingent at the rally. One has been thrown at the crowd. Protesters have booed the provocation and handed over some of the perpetrators to the police.
Moscow officials had previously provided protestors with a permit for a 300-strong meeting on Revolution Square, not far from the Kremlin’s walls. But as tens of thousands signed up for the event on social networks, the rally’s organizers agreed to the city’s suggestion that the rally be staged on Bolotnaya Square, which can hold a larger crowd. And is only about 2 kilometers away from the initial location.
The new venue was offered by Moscow authorities out of security considerations..
There were announcements in the Moscow Metro, and police throughout the city center were informing citizens about the change of venue.
At least five sizeable groups were redirected from Revolution Square to Bolotnaya. They were escorted by police with police helicopter monitoring the situation from the air.
The opposition demanded “the annulment of the election results and the resignation of the Central Election Commission chairman.” It also called on authorities to investigate violations and falsifications reported by election observers, and to punish those behind the irregularities.
Mass demonstrations have been held in Moscow, St. Petersburg and a number of other cities across Russia since December 5. The day after the elections, a rally was held at Chistiye Prudy, a tree-lined park in Central Moscow. According to various reports, between 2,000 to 5,000 people participated – but eventually, a group of protestors began an unsanctioned march down Myasnitskaya Street towards FSB headquarters, and as a result, more than 300 people were arrested.
On December 6, an unsanctioned opposition protest was held at Triumfalnaya Square. According to official reports, around 2,000 people gathered at the rally, and more than 300 of them were arrested – including Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin, Solidarnost leader Boris Nemtsov and Other Russia leader Eduard Limonov. Meanwhile, the opposition claims there have been over 500 arrests.
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