MOSCOW (AP) — Tens of thousands of demonstrators on Saturday cheered opposition leaders and jeered the Kremlin in the biggest show of outrage yet against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule.
The Moscow demonstration was even bigger than a similar rally two weeks ago, signaling that the protest movement ignited by the fraud-tainted Dec. 4 parliamentary election may be growing. Protest were also held in dozens of other cities and towns across Russia.
Rally participants densely packed a broad avenue, which has room for nearly 100,000 people, about 2.5 kilometers (some 1.5 miles) from the Kremlin, as the temperature dipped well below freezing. They chanted “Russia without Putin!”
A stage at the end of the 700-meter (0.43 mile) avenue featured placards reading “Russia will be free” and “This election Is a farce.” Heavy police cordons encircled the participants, who stood within metal barriers, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
Alexei Navalny, a corruption-fighting lawyer and popular blogger, electrified the crowd when he took the stage. A rousing speaker, he had protesters shouting “We are the power!”