Thousands of anti-government protesters marched through the center of Russia’s capital as President Vladimir Putin gathered supporters across the river and took charge of his latest political movement.
Activist Alexei Navalny led the opposition rally, which police said was attended by 6,000 people, with participants urging his candidacy for Moscow’s mayor. Putin was formally elected as leader of the All-Russia People’s Front, a group he created after popularity waned for his ruling United Russia, dubbed ‘The party of scoundrels and thieves’ by Navalny.
“Only we’ll decide how Russia develops,” Putin said today at a meeting of the People’s Front, which he created in 2011. “I believe in our success, in our victory.”
Navalny, who’s being tried on fraud charges he calls politically motivated, plans to run against Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin in September’s snap ballot for Moscow’s mayor. Today’s protest comes amid a crackdown on the opposition, with more than two dozen activists on trial after joining a rally last May that involved violent clashes with police.
Demonstrators chanted slogans including “Russia without Putin” and “Free political prisoners.” Nine activists from the banned Left Front were detained, according to Moscow police. About 15,000 people attended, TV Dozhd cited Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Sova research center, as saying.
“I used to come to show the authorities that they should answer to us -- now i come to the protests to show myself that I’m not the only one who thinks Russia needs change,” said Evgenia Ushakova, 41, from Moscow, who supports Navalny’s mayoral candidacy.
Svetlana Rybachenko, 43, said her daughter Anastasia fled Russia last year after being targeted by the authorities following the May demonstration.
“When your own daughter is on one of the posters, you realize the state can come for anyone,” she said.