Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he did not expect such a massive turnout at a rally in his support in Moscow and proposed to pay the fine the organizers face for exceeding the attendance limit.
The rally in Moscow’s Poklonnaya Gora memorial park on Saturday was booked for 15,000 people but city police said about 140,000 attended, disrupting traffic in the area. However, a RIA Novosti eyewitness estimates the attendance was much lower than the official number. The event was organized to balance an anti-Putin protest in the city center, which police said attracted 36,000 participants, though organizers insisted 120,000 showed up.
“I honestly did not expect such a turnout,” Putin said during a trip to the Urals, referring to the pro-government rally. He added that he believed the majority participants came to the event voluntarily, dismissing media reports that most of them were state employees ordered or paid to attend.
The City Hall said it would fine the organizers for exceeding the agreed turnout. Putin said he is ready to “partially” chip in on the fine, which would range from 1,000 to 2,000 rubles ($33 to $66).
Putin also said he currently has no plans to attend similar rallies but does not rule it out in the future.