Tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Moscow to protest new laws passed by the Russian government restricting public assembly on the grounds of maintaining order. The new laws dramatically increasing fines for participating in unauthorized demonstrations.
This winter, opposition protests against Putin’s expected ascension to the presidency bloomed, followed by a string of unauthorized protests this May. But Putin promised a crackdown on the movement after he took office, following through by approving the new law and raiding the homes of activists yesterday ahead of Tuesday’s march. But that didn’t stop the crowd — estimated by the opposition to be between 60,000 and 70,000 people — from turning out.
Reuters has a photo from today’s rally, courtesy of Der Spiegel:
Russians defied the very fear that the new laws were meant to instill in them. “I am not afraid I will be fined. I am not going to fight or scream, why would they fine me? And if they do, I won’t pay, I’ll go to jail and be considered a political prisoner,” Nina Lobachyova, a 73-year-old economist, told Reuters. Some even turned the tables: “They are scared of the people’s protest,” opposition leader Boris Nemtsov told the rally.
The crowds chanted, “Russia will be free,” “Russia without Putin,” and “All power to the people,” according to reports.
The new laws were introduced in reaction to unexpected protests in early May when then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was set to retake his seat as president. Russian gay rights activists held two unsanctioned protests later that month.