For a month now, a nascent protest movement has roiled Russia as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seeks to reassert himself as president, the same position he gave up in 2008. His successor and likely soon-to-be predecessor President Dmitri Medvedev responded to the protest movement by offering reforms on his way out the door after a planned March election. But today’s protests stand as a strong rebuke to the eleventh hour concessions.
Security sources told the U.K’s Guardian that 80,000 people showed up to protest in Moscow — the largest demonstration since the collapse of the Soviet Union — to demonstrate against what they contend was a fraudulent parliamentary election. Here’s a photograph of the crowds in Moscow on Saturday:
Putin’s position also suffered political blows as major figures, including a former Soviet Premier, called for him to step down and challenged his position. Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister whom Putin recently referred to as an ally, joined the Moscow crowds and urgently called for new elections and political reforms:
We need to create a platform for a dialogue with the authorities. Otherwise, we’ll face a revolution and we’ll miss the chance for a peaceful transition and for creating trust, which is needed for the new power.
While Kudrin stayed away from directly criticizing Putin, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev pointedly called for Putin to follow his own example and give up his hold on power. Gorbachev relinquished his authority after presiding over the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “I’m happy that I have lived to see the people waking up. This raises big hopes,” said Gorbechev, who is 80 years old.
Protesters today chanted “Russia will be free” and “Russia without Putin,” and one held a sign with Munch’s painting “The Scream” that read “Putin? Not again.”