Anti-Putin rally in Moscow ends in more arrests

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Anti-Putin rally in Moscow ends in more arrests

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Thousands of people in Russia have again rallied in protest at last weekend’s election of Vladimir Putin as president.

But their numbers were far fewer than in previous weeks. Organisers of the main rally in Moscow put the crowd at 25,000, the police said 10,000.

The protesters allege electoral fraud and want to overhaul a system in which Putin’s grip on power has become entrenched.

They chanted “time for change” and “Russia without Putin”. “12 more years? No thanks!” read one banner.

“The most awful thing that can happen is that we lose heart, that we let this government win finally and say we no longer have a chance,” said opposition leader Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion.

“Were these elections? Tell me, were these elections?” cried another protest organiser, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, echoing many slogans at the rally as he addressed the crowd.

“And that man who cried those crocodile tears, can we call him the elected president?” he went on. Vladimir Putin was famously seen wiping his eyes at his victory celebration rally.

“Comrades, it’s simple – either they have us for another six years or we have them. I don’t want to be had for another six years, I will fight… will you fight?” The crowd shouted “yes” in unison.

Udaltsov’s attempt to act on his words, by taking the protest in the direction of Pushkin Square, immediately got him into trouble. He was arrested by waiting police.

The first rally had been sanctioned by the authorities; this impromptu follow-up protest most definitely had not.

Several others, around 20, were also detained. Another 10 were reported to have been held in St Petersburg.

It follows hundreds of arrests a day after the election. Putin has made it clear the authorities will crack down on protests that have no official permission.