Thousands of Russians have marched in protests demanding the resignation of the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, for his handling of the country’s flailing economy.
Thousands of Russians march in protest over Vladimir Putin and the economy
By Adrian Blomfield in Vladivostok
Last Updated: 1:21PM GMT 31 Jan 2009
The biggest display of public disaffection with Russia’s normally popular prime minister prompted a violent response in Moscow, the capital.
Pro Kremlin youths brutally beat some protestors, while others were detained, including Eduard Limonov, a prominent Kremlin critic and leader of the outlawed National Bolshevik Party.
But the largest turnout was in Vladivostok, the focal point of anti-government protests over the past six weeks.
A protest march led by Communist party officials and civil rights leaders was allowed to go ahead at the last minute in an apparent change of heart by the Kremlin. A rally last month was violently dispersed by riot police, and over 200 people were detained.
The march was sanctioned on the condition that demonstrators kept off the road, carried no banners and chanted no slogans.
The marchers blithely ignored the restrictions. Marching down the city’s main street, they chanted “Putin resign!”. Some banners compared even compared the prime minister to Hitler.
Although only several hundred began the march, ordinary passersby applauded in encouragement as they passed and many even joined them. By the time the demonstrators reached their finishing point in a square dominated by a statue of Lenin, their number had swelled to nearly 2,000.
It might not seem like a huge number, but the government has reason to be worried. Russia is a country where most dissenters — save for a small hardcore group led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov – have been cowed into submission.
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