Massive Russian protest against ruling government
On Saturday, Russia experienced perhaps the biggest demonstrations in over two decades. The outburst of the protestors comes from the recent elections held last weekend that saw Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party as winner, although it lost a large amount of votes.
The protestors, along with international agencies, claim there was voter fraud and voter irregularities, most from the ruling party. Protestors are also calling for the removal of the prime minister from government only months before he runs for president.
The Washington Post describes a lot of the demonstrators as students and professionals who simply wanted a change in government and not a brutal revolution. One international law firm employee said, “we don’t want blood, we don’t want revolution. We earn enough money to live, but the authorities need to understand we are really fed up.”
Unlike the demonstrations throughout the week, Saturday saw less than 100 arrests and less violence from security forces. Authorities report an approximate 30,000 to 40,000 people at the peaceful demonstrations, but organizers claim it was more like 150,000. However, at this point neither number can be verified. Most protests were authorized by the government and although there was a 30,000 person limit, police were not aggressive when more showed up. One retired major general went as far as saying that “the army is with us, 80 percent of officers hate the defense minister.”
The protest also saw something new: a unity among other political parties in the country from the liberals to communists to nationalists. “United Russia made a miracle, prompting all of us to unite against it,” said one nationalist party affiliate.
Another big surprise from this protest was the media coverage it received. While the protests were ignored throughout the week and only mentioned what it described as aggressive and unruly mobs, on Saturday television airtime was granted to the protestors. While reporters were careful to not taint Prime Minister Putin’s image, the protestors constantly displayed their dislike for him and the government.
CBS News reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who agreed to serve as prime minister under Putin’s presidency, “conceded this week that election law may have been violated.” It also reports that the Prime Minister Putin said there could be a “dialogue with the opposition-minded,” a change from his usual strict objection to such thing.
On Sunday, President Medvedev said that although he disagreed with the “slogans and statements made at the rallies,” he had given instructions to “check all information from polling stations regarding compliance with the legislation on elections.”
The protestors have agreed to meet again on December 24 in hopes of achieving a political change, but the lapse of time and most recent pressure on a Russian website similar to Facebook to shut down to prevent further encouragement has placed doubt on the future of the protest.