Tens of thousands of Russians defied bitter cold in Moscow on Saturday to demand fair elections in a march against Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule, and supporters of the prime minister staged a rival rally drawing comparable numbers. Opposition protesters also organized smaller protests in other cities across the vast country, trying to maintain pressure on Putin one month before a March 4 presidential election he is expected to win. Their breath turning to white vapor clouds in the frigid Moscow air, tens of thousands of protesters marched within sight of the red-brick Kremlin walls and towers, chanting “Russia without Putin!” and “Give us back the elections!”
… Temperatures far below freezing tested the power and perseverance of a street protest movement fuelled by suspicions of fraud in a December parliamentary election and dismay among some Russians over Putin’s plan to rule at least six more years. In the capital, demonstrators bundled up against the cold marched down a broad central street, many wearing white ribbons that have become symbols of protests. A digital clock flashed the midday temperature: minus 17 C (1 F).
“Not one vote for Putin!” Vladimir Ryzhkov, an opposition leader, said to a roar of approval from the crowd at the rally that followed the march. Protesters packed a square across the river from the Kremlin, stamping and clapping to keep warm. Opposition leaders are trying to maintain momentum after tens of thousands turned out on December 10 and December 24 for the biggest opposition protests since Putin was first elected president in 2000.
Full Article: Russians stage rival protests over Putin | Reuters.