Moscow Demonstrations: Anti-Putin Protesters And Pro-Government Rally Brave Freezing Conditions In Russia
Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Moscow and other Russian cities to protest the ongoing rule of Vladimir Putin. Numbers could be in excess of 100,000, despite temperatures plummeting to -17C.
Currently the prime minister, Putin is favourite to win next month’s presidential election, tightening his grip on power for another six years.
A rival pro-government demonstration, boasting thousands of Putin supporters, is also being held in Moscow. According to Reuters, Russian police have said the pro-government rally boasts 90,000 people, however authorities have a history of ferrying in sympathisers by bus.
Huge anti-government demonstrations sweep across Russia in December, as thousands protested against electoral fraud from Putin’s United Russia party, demanding a re-run of the December elections, as well as political reform, a greater choice of candidates and the release of political prisoners.
"Everyone here is here of their own free will," one protester in the 'For Honest Elections' march told the BBC. "Some of my friends were forced by their employers to go to the Pro-Putin rally, otherwise they would be fired."
Speaking to Reuters, protester Ivan Kositsky, said: "We have already reached a point of no return. People have stopped being afraid and see how strong they are together," adding that Putin "wants stability, but you can only find stability in the graveyard."
Members of the anti-government movement have taken to wearing white ribbons. On Saturday, like in December, they marched from Kaluzhskaya Square to Bolotnaya Square
Putin, a former KGB operative, held the presidency between 2000 until 2008. He was succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev, but remained the focus of power for the country in the role of prime minister.
He currently has 52% approval rating ahead of the 4 March election.