Tens of thousands of Muscovites marched through the Russian capital today in the first mass protest since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin for his third term as president.
Authorities appeared intent on undermining the protest, as key opposition figures were summoned for questioning following coordinated raids on their homes on the eve of the rally. Meanwhile, citizens were offered an unprecedented range of events to enjoy on Tuesday, a bank holiday in Russia, which critics say were designed to draw people away from the protest.
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Gennady Gudkov, a State Duma member of the opposition A Just Russia party, speaking today to RFE/RL’s Russian Service during an opposition march in Moscow.
“It doesn’t seem that there will be any repressive actions at this point and I don’t even think there are enough [police personnel] for that. The police is absolutely peaceful, as you can see, so I don’t think there will be any harsh actions [against protesters].”
Thousands of Russians have been marching in Moscow in a rally calling for the resignation of President Vladimir Putin as well as for the reform of the country’s electoral system. RFE/RL’s correspondent, Tom Balmforth speaks to protesters in Moscow.
Yevgeny, 27-year old office worker:
“It seems to me personally that there are many more people here today than they were at the previous rally, at Yakimanka, on May 6th.”
“Why did I come today? Because we are against the lawlessness that is happening in our country, against injustice, against that Putin and all the authorities don’t see or don’t want to see what is going on in the country and because they are telling people that they aren’t patriots, that they are ‘orange’ and so on.”
Tatyana Yamoleyeva, 63-year old retired:
“One should not be afraid — there is no point in staying home and being afraid. They should go out into the streets and speak out to say that the laws the Duma is passing are wrong.”
The unrest in Moscow that began on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration ceremony, when police violently broke up an opposition demonstration and hasn’t let up, with noisy demonstrations becoming practically a daily occurrence in the Russian capital.
In this week’s edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I sat down with my regular co-host Kirill Kobrin, managing editor of RFE/RL’s Russian Service, to discuss the politics of the street and the machinations in the corridors of power — and how they intersect. Do the protests matter? Are they spreading? And what do they mean for how Russia will be governed? [listen to the podcast here]
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In Moscow Sergei Ivanov, a programmer tells @BalmforthTom: ”I think more and more people are going to come out [on the streets] after they beat women and thrashed everyone one by one yesterday. There is no way back now. It is shameful that OMON [riot police] were carrying out orders to beat women with batons.”
Denis Ivanov, 25 a historian: “We are not going to stop [protesting], we are not going to go away because there is simply nowhere for us to go. None of my friends who could leave Russia want to do that because this is our country and we love our country, we have nowhere else to go.”
Anti-Putin protesters speaking today (May 7) to RFE/RL’s Tom Balmforth at Pushkinskaya Metro Station in Moscow.
Putin takes the oath of office at his inauguration ceremony to the sound of a military band playing “The Festival Coronation March” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.