According to opposition leaders, at least 120,000 people gathered in the centre of Moscow on 24 December to demand new and fair parliamentary elections, and that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin retire. Police report that 29,000 were present at the rally.
The rally yesterday was the follow up to what was the biggest rally in post-Soviet Russia held on 10 December. According to the protesters, the 4 December parliamentary elections were fraudulent, that is why they called for a new election to be held. They also demanded the immediate release of political prisoners, allow for the registration of opposition parties, and the resignation of Vladimir Churov, chair of the Central Election Commission.
The European Parliament supported the demands of protesters, and passed a resolution calling for a new election as well as an investigation into charges of alleged fraud in the election. While Russian officials rejected both demands, President Dmitry Medvedev recently proposed to pass a law simplifying parties’ registration and to restore governors’ elections (which were stopped in 2005)—but only after 2013. People’s Freedom Party cofounder Boris Nemtsov welcomed Medvedev’s proposals, but said they were not enough, and said that the reforms would not have come without the protests.
During yesterday’s rally, politicians, musicians, public figures and journalists all expressed their concerns about allegations of fraud in the election, and called on people to unite as election watchdogs for the presidential elections in March. Former Minister of Finance Alexey Kudrin also delivered a speech at the rally, demanding a fair election, echoing the demands of average citizens.
The speakers suggested that people create working groups or, as Russian popular writer Boris Akunin said, a nongovernmental organisation called “Fair Russia” to prevent Vladimir Putin from becoming president. Akunin asked the crowd if they wanted to see Putin as president, and if they liked his reaction to the 10 December rally, and his questions were met with whistling from the crowd. Following the first rally, Putin alleged that the protesters were actually paid to attend the rally.
According to Akunin, the demands from the 10 December rally “were the minimal conditions” of protesters, and failure of authorities to comply with protester’s demands showed that “there is no use to put up with Putin’s regime.” Art Troitsky, Russia’s leading music critic stressed the significance of mystery around Putin’s family, and said that because he hides his family, he lives like an “illegal spy” and is not to be trusted.
The protesters were from a wide range of backgrounds, including nationalists, antifascists, communists, and liberals, did not represent any one political party. All came together to add one more demand to the initial requirements from the 10 December protests. They called for a campaign to prevent Vladimir Putin from coming to power in the 2012 presidential elections, as well as heavily monitoring the election for fraud.