Thousands of people have attended the biggest anti-government rally in the Russian capital Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union. As many as 50,000 people gathered on an island near the Kremlin to condemn alleged ballot-rigging in parliamentary elections and demand a re-run. Other, smaller rallies took place in St Petersburg and other cities.Communists, nationalists and Western-leaning liberals turned out together despite divisions between them.
The protesters allege there was widespread fraud in Sundays polls though the ruling United Russia party did see its share of the vote fall sharply. Demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the election saw more than 1,000 arrests, mostly in Moscow, and several key protest leaders such as the anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny were jailed.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has never experienced popular protests like these before, the BBCs Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow. During his decade in power, first as president then prime minister, he has grown used to being seen as Russias most popular and powerful politician.But as one of the protesters put it to our correspondent, Russia is changing.
Police put the number gathering on Moscows Bolotnaya Square for the “Fair Elections” rally at 25,000 while organisers talked of 100,000. The BBCs Daniel Sandford reports from the scene that the number seems to be closer to 50,000, and people continued to rally on the square after hearing the speakers.
A resolution was passed calling for the cancellation of Sundays election results, new elections, the resignation of electoral commission chief Vladimir Churov, an investigation into the alleged ballot-rigging and the immediate release of arrested protesters.
Authorities had permitted the protest on condition the rally was relocated from central Revolution Square to Bolotnaya Square, an island in the Moscow River just south of the Kremlin where access points could be easily controlled.