Demonstrators are thronging the streets of Moscow to protest at widespread alleged fraud in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Russia. The Guardian puts the number of people gathered in Bolotnaya Square in the Russian capital at 50,000. The BBC has footage here.
In a blog post on the New Yorker website, Julia Ioffe describes how the Russian opposition has found its voice:
The events of the last few days have been utterly astonishing and radically different from anything Putin’s Russia has seen before: thousands of young, educated, middle class Russians who have something to lose have come out into the streets simply out of a feeling of being utterly fed up, in spite of that prosperity — and, quite probably, because of it.
As for the Kremlin, Ioffe says it’s “either in denial, scared, or both”:
Vladimir Putin dismissed the protests, saying that they had been instigated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, this after days of him and President Dmitry Medvedev pooh-poohing allegations of widespread, well-documented ballot stuffing and vote rigging. (The country’s top election official, who openly agitates for Putin and the United Russia Party, said the series of videos of electoral fraud circulating on the Internet were filmed in residential apartments fixed up to look like polling stations.) Behind the scenes, there’s been a massive Kremlin effort to lean on the media.
Whether traditional authoritarian muscle-flexing will snuff out this swelling opposition movement is uncertain. Even seasoned observers of the post-Soviet Russian scene are unsure how things will unfold.