Reuters reports that today protesters in Moscow faced a huge increase in security presence that essentially stopped a mass protest against last weekend’s parliamentary elections. But The Guardian reports that the protest movement gathered momentum with more than 1,000 people arrested in the past couple of days and anticipation grew for a rally that is expected to bring out “tens of thousands” this weekend.
The protests, reports The Guardian, are the “biggest challenge to Vladimir Putin’s rule.” The paper adds:
With concern inside the Kremlin growing, Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, met their security council, including the interior and defence ministers, the head of the federal security service (FSB) and the country’s foreign intelligence chief, to discuss the situation.
Helicopters hovered in the skies over Moscow, while the police presence on the streets of the Russian capital remained strong following two protests that led to hundreds of people arrested.
The movement was triggered by a disputed parliamentary election result that protesters say wildly overstated the popularity of Putin’s United Russia party.
Also, today, the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for new elections. CNN reports that in an interview with Russian media, Gorbachev said the elections were “unfair” and “new elections were needed.”
Over at The Atlantic Jeffrey Tayler has an interesting piece that puts the protests in perspective. They are the biggest demonstration, he writes, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and he notes that the people on the streets are not those who have been in opposition of Putin for a long time, but a set of people who have been “shockingly apolitical,” but who have been “angered over apparent electoral fraud.”