Thousands of people rallied Saturday in central Moscow to protest recent parliamentary elections they say were dishonest and to press their demands for political reform in Russia.
“We have gathered here strictly to underline our demands,” opposition activist and former parliamentary deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said in remarks to the crowd as the demonstration got under way.
He said those demands, formulated at a similar mass protest two weeks ago, included the release of “political prisoners,” adoption of new and more liberal election legislation, the sacking of the current top elections official, Vladimir Churov, and a rerun of the December 4 vote.
Novelist Boris Akunin also addressed the crowd at the start of the rally, issuing criticism of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
“We proposed modest terms under which we would agree to this leadership for some more time,” Akunin said.
Referring to President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin, he added: “The outgoing president responded to us with some vague promises, the man who wants to become president responded by insulting us.”
After Akunin spoke, many in the crowd briefly chanted: “Russia Without Putin!”
Authorities gave permission for up to 50,000 people to rally on Saturday. Nearly half an hour after the official start of the rally participants were still pouring into a wide avenue that had been sealed off to traffic in order for the demonstration to take place.
Shortly after the rally began Moscow police said that 14,000 people gathered, but over the past two weeks tens of thousands of people had pledged on a variety of internet social networks to attend.