Members of Russia’s political opposition have come up with a new form of protest action – mass strolls. On Monday night several hundred people wearing white ribbons (a symbol of anti-Putin protests) wandered, seemingly aimlessly and without posters or slogans, through the centre of Moscow. In reality however, most Muscovites know what these slogans are: the dismissal of Putin as a new President and a repeat of parliamentary elections.
Formally it is not forbidden to walk around Moscow, even in such large numbers, but riot police nonetheless chased them from a small square opposite the Presidential Administration building in the city’s Old Square. The “wandering opponents” then set their sights – and feet – to Chistoprudny boulevard (where Bulgakov’s Master and Marguerite takes place). The protest was peaceful, and, apart from the one occasion on Old Square, police did not intervene, even if they were present in very large numbers not far away.
Opposition leaders Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov have proposed that such “rambles” take place around the clock and indefinitely. Both were detained by the police during the night but then released, and have promptly joined the rest of the crowd on Chistye Prudy. The walkers have decided to hold another march at the end of May or beginning of June; the exact date will be set in the coming days. Meanwhile Udaltsov, who claims not to have slept in almost 3 days since the fateful protest on Bolotnaya Square Sunday, has left for home. Some small groups of “strollers” have remained on the streets but the forecast stormy weather may yet chase them away.