Monday, March 5, 2007

Russians in Saint Petersburg Protest Against Putin

A Russian reader of Jotman reports that a surprisingly large demonstation took place on the streets of Moscow over the weekend. Noting that the protest appears to have received little if any coverage in the Western media, he provides this report:
This Saturday, in Saint Petersburg opposition has finally managed to launch an impressive rally of about 5000 people. This was the long-awaited "March of Dissentients" that had failed last December in Moscow. Official estimates are that 2000 people attended, the opposition claims 8000. Police force was about 3000. Last year, it was banned in Moscow, so was this year in SPb, but the opposition did not obey this time.

The "March" was organized by a coalition "The other Russia" (A Different Russia) comprised on the "United Civic Front" led by Garry Kasparov (ex chess champion), "People's Democratic Union" under Mikhail Kasyanov (ex PM), and the "National Bolshevist Party" under Eduard Limonov - a most notorious radical that appeals to youths.

Interestingly, the authorities attempted to label the march as "Russian nationalistic" to repel potential followers.

The illegal meeting started at the Oktyabrskaya subway station, where it gathered only 500 people. and was quickly contained by the police force.

However, what happened next was apparently totally spontaneous and unexpected both to the organizers and the police. Several dozens of people headed by a SPb parliament member Sergey Guliayev broke through the police lines and the crowd rushed to the Nevsky Prospect. The march followed all the way to the Rebellion Square (famous for the attempted December coup of 1825). There an improvised rally took place and leaders of opposition Kasyanov, Kasparov and Limonov gave passionate speeches against Putin's government (and current SPb mayor L. Matviyenko).

Arrests started almost immediately and continued the next day. Around 100 people have been arrested so far for "general disorder".

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