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Putin and Medvedev try to calm Russian election outcry

Miriam Elder, Guardian
The Russian leadership has sought to calm tensions following an unprecedented protest against Vladimir Putin that brought tens of thousands of demonstrators on to the streets of Moscow.

The prime minister has yet to comment on the protest, but his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “We respect the point of view of the protesters. We are hearing what is being said. We will continue to listen to them.”

Up to 50,000 people demonstrated in Moscow on Saturday following the disputed parliamentary election in which Putin’s United Russia party won nearly 50% of the vote amid widespread allegations of fraud.

Protests took place in more than 50 cities, with a reported 7,000 people gathering in St Petersburg and up to 4,000 in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, despite the temperature of -20C.
(11 December 2011)

Quiet after the storm – official silence after Russia protests
Euronews The day after thousands of Russians demonstrated against perceived electoral fraud during last week’s ballot, authorities seem to have no official response.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the target of much of the protesters’ anger, said the premier had no statement.

Saturday’s demonstrations showed mass resentment of Putin’s United Russia Party, as different opposition groups came together.

“There is a lot of injustice. Laws are not working properly. Ordinary people are simply not protected.
(11 December 2011)

Russia’s Great December Evolution

Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation
On December 10, in what one Russian blogger called “The Great December Evolution”—a play on the Bolsheviks’ Great October Revolution—tens of thousands of people protested peacefully in central Moscow. It was the most striking display of grassroots democracy and activism since the early 1990s. Police showed restraint, and Moscow’s mayor even provided free bus rides to protesters who had arrived at the wrong location. “Everything is flowing and changing,” a Russian friend e-mailed me Sunday night.

She had marched to Bolotnaya Square on December 10 in a group which included Communists, liberals, anarchists and nationalists, even members of the Russian Orthodox Church—a cacophonous coalition unified, for the moment, in demanding the immediate release of prisoners arrested last week in connection with the protests and the investigation of election violations. (Some, but not all, favor the scheduling of new parliamentary elections and the registration of opposition parties that have been unable to cross the threshold to win seats in Parliament or put forward presidential candidates.)

Moscow’s demonstration—and many of the others in sixty cities, from Saratov in the south to Siberia, with people gathering in below-zero temperature—also rallied unusual coalitions. Organizers sought to send a message of unity, urging the crowd to respect the diversity of speakers’ views.
(12 December 2011)

Putin’s Big Mistake?

Julia Ioffe, The New Yorker
Well, they’ve finally done it. Last night, after some six thousand people came out in central Moscow to protest suspected fraud in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, authorities rounded up three hundred people. Among them was Alexey Navalny, a popular anti-corruption activist and blogger. (I profiled Navalny for The New Yorker in April, and wrote about the alleged election fraud on Monday.).

The problem for Putin’s government is that, unlike the other two hundred and ninety-nine or so people arrested, Navalny is as close to a real celebrity as the Russian opposition has. He is also the one coherent, galvanizing, and viable figure among them. Despite his flirtations with nationalists, he is a brilliant political tactician and ad man: within three months of his coining the meme “party of crooks and thieves” to describe the ruling United Russia, one third of Russians polled said they identified United Russia as crooks and, yes, thieves.
(6 December 2011)