Russian Protesters Take To The Streets
Despite freezing temperatures, on Saturday, tens of thousands gathered to demand an end to corrupt Russian politics led by the 12-year rule of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Protests have taken place over the last few weeks and while officials have promised changed ways, protesters are hesitant to believe without seeing the proof. However, many of the young protesters have promised to continue until they see the change they have been promised.
Organizers estimate Saturday’s attendance at 120,000, which is far larger than one held two weeks ago, potentially indicating a growing strength. Many are hoping that if they continue with this course they will see change over the next few years.
“We don’t know who the leader might be, because there is no person who represents us,” Viktor Shenderovich, a popular writer, told the crowd. “But this is an expression of moral attitude. People don’t want to be stepped on,” as reported by The Washington Post.
While the turnout was strong, the protest remained peaceful.
According to The Washington Post, Alexei Navalny, a popular blogger and anti-corruption activist who has emerged as a leader of the opposition said, “I can see enough people to conquer the Kremlin right now. But we are not going to do it because we are peaceful. But we cannot be patient forever.”
As a result of the demonstrations, President Dmitry Medvedev announced earlier in the week that steps would be taken to “liberalize politics, reduce corruption and free the media.” However, protesters are skeptical and await further action.
The protests are a result of unhappiness among the people that began in September when Medvedev and Putin announced that they would swap jobs, allowing Putin to return to the presidency after he was forced to step down in 2008 due to term limits. Furthermore, allegations of fraud during the parliamentary elections on December 4th only fueled the discontent. As TIME reported, Mikhail Salkin, who was working at the polls allegedly discovered colleagues destroying voting documents and replacing them with fraudulent ones allowing, the ruling United Russia party, led by Putin, to garner many more votes than it had actually received.