Russia’s Pro-Democracy Protests Cloud Putin’s March Election Plan
For Vladimir Putin, three months may feel like a political lifetime. The sudden rise of Russia’s democracy movement is posing the biggest challenge yet to his 12-year strongman rule.
It sounded like a TV game show.
In a tightly choreographed event, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he would swap jobs with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin … after the formality of presidential elections March 4.
But three months and one controversial parliamentary election later, about 100,000 people came out in Moscow to chant: “Russia Without Putin.”
What snapped in Russia? Voices from the crowd give an answer.
Alexei Vladimirov drove 150 kilometers from Tver to join the December 24 protest. He said Russia has never had fair elections, but that 20 years after the end of communism, now is the time for real democracy here.
Svetlana Slepova came to the protest with white balloons. She said white symbolizes the democracy movement’s desire for peaceful reform.
Stanislav Gerasimov, a 24-year-old computer programmer, speaks for Russia’s new, politically active middle class. He said a critical mass of Russians have stopped fearing the government. They believe that government should serve the people - not the other way around.
Prime Minister Putin recently charged on national TV that some demonstrators are being paid to stage protests. Gerasimov and others see that as an insult.
He said Russian protesters are not paid - certainly not by [U.S.] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama. Gerasimov said people are taking part in protest actions voluntarily, to take part in what they see as a historic moment in Russia’s history.