Russians Defy Ban, Head To Streets Protesting Elections
For the second day, Russians took the streets to protest the results of Sunday's elections. The rallies are unapproved and they are first protests in years.
As we reported, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party lost dozens of seats in the elections, despite the fact that many believe he resorted to fraud to keep from losing more. But as, we reported, analysts think "the voting results in parliamentary elections... signal that many Russians are tired of the corruption that has been allowed to flourish in the Putin era."
The BBC reports that tonight in Moscow, protesters chanted "slogans against the ruling party," and police arrested at least 250 protesters. The Washington Post reports that as a result of yesterday's protests, one of the country's most prominent bloggers was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
The Post reports on the protest that got Alexei Navalny in trouble:
Putin said Tuesday that a fall-off in support was to be expected, given the strains that Russia has been experiencing. He dismissed the accusation that United Russia was in any ways uniquely corrupt. He promised to shake up the government after he becomes president in March, as expected.
But bribery and extortion here are believed to have mushroomed under Putin, and Navalny's attacks on the system have made him heroic. His stands against corruption and authoritarianism, and in defense of ethnic Russians, tap a deeply popular root here among people who are mistrustful of the Western-oriented liberal old guard.
"This is our enemy and we hate him!" he told the crowd of several thousand demonstrators Monday night. "We should remember that they are nobody. And we are the power. We do not need thieves and crooks! We want another president and not a thief and crook!"
The crowd began chanting, "Putin is a thief!"
So what does this all mean? Putin's detractors were quick to say it was the end of an era when in late November, Putin was booed publicly. Both Foreign Policy and The Telegraph ran stories wondering if the end was near. Our friends at The Picture Show ran a piece from NPR's David Greene and Laura Krantz, who are traveling through Russia by train, that chronicles Russian discontent.
One Russian told them that they can't see "any good replacement" for Putin. So the answer is unclear. Putin faces presidential elections in March.