Putin opponents patch up differences to plan demo

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Putin opponents patch up differences to plan demo

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Opponents of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have met to plan another demonstration this Saturday against his bid to regain the presidency next month.

The rally is being billed as a key test of the movement’s ability to keep up the pressure in the face of what is almost certain to be a Putin victory.

The large number of protest groups are divided on many issues – although they agree on the main goal.

“We want a fair election. Unless Churov (the head of the Electoral Commission) is fired, it won’t be,” said one campaigner for the Yabloko opposition party.

Tens of thousands protested in December, angry at allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections won by Putin’s party.

However, his supporters are planning their own counter-demonstration.

“We think that those who call people out to protest in Bolotnaya Square are trying to use people’s discontent for their own selfish goals,” said a supporter of Sut vremeni (‘Essence of Time’), a nationalist pro-Putin organisation.

Thousands have pledged to turn out, but plunging temperatures have raised fresh doubts.

Our correspondent in Moscow Alexander Shashkov said:

“On Triumph Square at the end of each month, a meeting takes place in defence of the constitution which guarantees the right to assembly. Two different meetings are planned for this Saturday: one, for the ‘fair election’ movement, the other in support of Vladimir Putin’s candidacy.”