A video produced in order to attract attendance at yesterday’s Moscow rally to mark the brutal crack down by police one year ago may have worked. Along with aggressive social media promotion and signs and flyers across several Russian cities, the rally was the largest so far in 2013.
“The whole square is full. There are tens of thousands of us,” declared prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov as he spoke to the crowd that lined every inch of Bolotnaya Square across the Moscow river from the Kremlin.
At the march or “meeting” as it is termed in Russian, the Associated Press estimated the number of protestors at 20,000 while the Moscow police put the total number at 7,000. Russia Today television put the crowd at 10,000 while the BBC simply reported the number as in the “tens of thousands.”
Previous numbers had been reported as modest in places outside Moscow in past rallies but this time record crowds hit the streets in Saint Petersburg and provincial cities such as Astrakhan.
Participants carried signs of those who had been arrested on what opposition leaders describe as “trumped up charges” in last year’s rally on the 6th of May, 2012. The opposition is demanding that the Putin government release all opposition political prisoners.
The May 2012 demonstration was just before Vladimir Putin’s presidential inauguration and ended in mass arrests of opposition figures. Organizers of this rally hope to breathe new life into the protest movement following what observers say is the toughest crackdown on dissenters of Putin’s 13 years in power.
The last major opposition rally was held in Moscow in January when some 20,000 people took part to protest the Kremlin decision to ban adoptions by Americans in retaliation to the USA Magnitsky Act, targeting Russian officials for corruption and murder.
This year’s protest was dampened by the accidental death of an electrical worker who was crushed by large loud speakers being attached as he and several others were assembling the stage.
Unlike last year’s dramatic protest, Monday’s event was for the most part very peaceful.
Many ordinary Russians feel that the opposition has failed to drive Putin from office even though new polls show that almost 52% of Russians believe the ruling United Russia party to be the “party of crooks and theives.” That number has doubled since 2010.
For profiles on those still in jail from last year’s protest, click here.