Protests about ‘colossal’ vote fraud in Russia are being led by Russia’s Communists.
Over a thousand Russians, including prominent Communist Party members, gathered in Moscow’s central square on Saturday to protest what critics of the Kremlin claim rampant vote fraud, while police detained a number of demonstrators.
After the very unpopular ruling United Russia party won a landslide majority in parliament in legislative elections this month, opponents of President Vladimir Putin accused the authorities of fraud.
The three-day voting came after a historic crackdown on the opposition, which saw Putin’s most prominent critic Alexei Navalny imprisoned and his organizations formally outlawed.
Many Russians in Moscow and elsewhere backed the Communists as a sort of protest vote, some for the first time, because practically all strong Kremlin critics were forbidden from standing.
An AFP correspondent reported that over a thousand protestors gathered in Pushkin Square on Saturday as Communist leaders denounced what they called a rigged election.
The mob screamed, “Putin is a robber!” and demanded that political prisoners be released.
Some demonstrators held signs calling for a recount, while others backed Navalny.
Authorities detained a number of activists before of the rally, including Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the radical socialist Left Front, according to OVD-Info, which tracks detentions at opposition gatherings.
Authorities increased the police presence on the area, but officers did not intervene in the gathering. Instead, they turned up the volume on their music to drown out the speakers.
“United Russia has stolen parliamentary mandates,” demonstrators were warned by Valery Rashkin, the Communist Party of Moscow’s first secretary.
He and other Communists were particularly outraged by Moscow’s electronic voting results, which reversed the Communist Party’s lead during the September 17-19 election.
“In Moscow, there has been massive vote fraud,” Rashkin said, adding that the party would challenge the election results.
Alexei Kurinny, a Communist politician, thanked Muscovites for standing at the vanguard of the struggle for fair elections.
He warned the crowd, “Whoever steals votes is a criminal.”
The gathering was not attended by veteran Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who was scheduled to meet with Putin along with other party officials.