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© RIA Novosti. Alexander Vilf

Taking to the streets

by Alina Lobzina at 04/02/2012 20:06

Moscow’s protests are multiplying ahead of the upcoming presidential election, as thousands rugged up up to participate in rival protests in temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The Fair Elections march and rally, which opposes Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the We’ve Got Something to Lose protest, which attracted mostly the PM’s supporters, were Saturday’s biggest mass-events.
Police estimate that the turnout at Bolotnaya Ploshchad's Fair Elections rally was 35,000-36,000 people, while organizers put the number at approximately 100,000. At the pro-Putin rally at Poklonnaya Gora police estimated the turnout at 138,000.

Undiminished enthusiasm
The long New Year holiday break didn’t diminish the Free Elections protesters' spirits, and the movement, which emerged in December amid allegations of election rigging in the State Duma poll, is still attracting newcomers.
“It’s my first time here, and I plan to come again,” Lyudmila, a doctor at a Moscow clinic, told The Moscow News.
She joined the march from Kaluzhskaya Ploshchad to Bolotnaya Ploshchad with some friends, some of whom also had never taken part in these rallies.
“It should be our job for now to come to those meetings,” IT-specialist Taras said. “I want the country to change so I don’t need to attend them in the future.”

Mixed motivations
The rival rally at Poklonnaya Gora also attracted quite a few people who were not used to brandishing slogans and waving placards, although their motivations seemed more diverse.
“I remember the 90s and I don’t want those times to return,” said a middle-aged woman, who came alone. Two workers from Zelenograd said they came to support Putin because of the stability which arrived at the time of his presidency between 2000 and 2008.
Initially the rally was meant to unite people opposed to the Fair Elections movement because of its alleged links to foreign governments. The slogan “Stop the orange plague,” referring to the events in Ukraine in 2004, was heard as often as calls to support Putin. However, for some who came to stop the “orange plague” the event was disappointing.
“I think it was a provocation,” artist Yelena said. “It’s a shame that the anti-orange protest turned into a pro-Putin gathering.”
A large number of people who showed up at the protest came with their colleagues.
A man standing under the emblem of state postal service Pochta Rossii said he and his co-workers had been offered to put their names on a list of those who wanted to take part at the rally. He refused to give his name or the name of the department he was employed at.
Another state employee in Moscow’s social development sector said he was forced to come, or else “they will fire me, and I won’t be able to find anything new,” he said, refusing to give his name.

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