Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Russian Spring?

Despite the obvious dangers in openly challenging the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russian citizens are taking to the streets to protest the recent parliamentary elections and the overall direction of the country.

The Wall Street Journal reports that protests today in various Russian cities centered on concerns of vote rigging.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in cities across Russia on Saturday to protest alleged vote-rigging in what observers said were the largest antigovernment demonstrations in at least a decade.

The huge display of popular anger raised the pressure on the Kremlin, which has so far dismissed the postelection discontent as instigated by the U.S. to undermine the Kremlin. But there was no sign that the authorities were willing to even consider opponents' demands for new elections or a full recount of the disputed Dec. 4 parliamentary vote. Opposition leaders vowed to hold more demonstrations later in the month if their demands aren't addressed.
The authorities did soften their approach to the protesters somewhat Saturday by giving permits for many of the demonstrations. In Moscow, tens of thousands gathered on Bolotnaya Square across the river from the Kremlin. With 17,000 police standing guard, the three-hour event went off peacefully, in contrast to protests earlier in the week that had ended in hundreds of detentions by police.
The Associated Press adds that there were protests in at least 50 cities.

Earlier in the week, protesters were met by a strong police presence; if that response was an attempt to shut down others, then it has been a failure. How the government responds now to the growing voices of protest is sure to draw international attention. It also will test the leadership of Vladimir Putin at a time that he already has orchestrated how he will return to the presidency.

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