Following mass vote protests in Russia, prime minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called for the creation of a speakers' corner like in London's Hyde Park in Russia, so that people would have a place to openly express their ideas.
“We should find some decent place like Hyde Park to give an opportunity to everyone to freely speak out on any issue, so the media could present those views to all Russian citizens,” Putin said during a meeting with the heads of Russian universities in Moscow.
“The place is not important; what is important is to ensure that the country and the public learn about those people’s opinions,” he added.
The statement came less than three weeks before presidential elections scheduled for March 4, in which Putin, whose electoral rating currently stands at 53 percent, according to the state-run VTsIOM pollster, will have to struggle to defeat his competitors in the first round.
The idea to designate a special area for peaceful protests in Moscow was first put forward by Russian human rights activist Alexander Brod last year. Brod proposed Bolotnaya Square across the river from the Kremlin, where a major protest against alleged vote fraud took place following December 4 parliamentary elections, as a possible location for Russia’s own speakers’ corner.