PUBLISHED: 14:50 EST, 10 March 2012 | UPDATED: 19:21 EST, 10 March 2012
Protesters against Vladimir Putin’s ‘rigged’ elections faced truncheon-wielding riot police across Russia yesterday in a clampdown against unauthorised demonstrations.
In Moscow, 20,000 protesters were met by thousands of police and special forces troops deployed on the streets of the capital. Protest leaders claimed Putin ‘stole’ the presidency in his crushing poll win.
One banner read: ‘These weren’t elections. This isn’t a president.’
Police officers detained opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov after thousands of protesters flocked to a central avenue in the city to demand Putin’s resignation amid the allegations of electoral fraud.
The rally had been widely seen as a test of whether the opposition is able to maintain its strength after Prime Minister Putin won a return to the Kremlin.
Putin, Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008, had to step down in 2008 to avoid the terms’ limitations. He won 64 per cent of the vote last Sunday and is set to stay in the Kremlin for the next six years.
Although violations at the presidential vote were numerous, observers, however, viewed the vote as fairer compared to the December parliamentary vote.
But the protesters do not recognise the vote’s results. ‘These weren’t elections. This isn’t a president,’ read a banner on the stage.
‘I don’t believe that this election was fair,’ 18-year-old student Elizaveta Chernysheva said. ‘There have been a lot of falsifications.’
City authorities have given permission for a rally of up to 50,000 on the pavement of Novy Arbat, a major street in Moscow which is part of the route used by high-speed motorcades that whisk top figures to and from the Kremlin.
Rallies protesting the widely reported fraud in the parliamentary election have attracted up to 100,000 people in the largest display of discontent in Russia’s post-Soviet history.
Last Monday, the day after the election, Moscow police arrested some 250 people who stayed on a central-city square after the time authorised for a protest rally ran out.