Moscow rally goes ahead despite Putin's crackdown on opposition
Thousands of Russians shrugged off President Vladimir Putin’s tough new tactics intended to quash any challenge to his rule and chanted “Russia will be free” in a march through Moscow.
Protesters streamed down a leafy central boulevard yesterday in the first major rally since Putin was sworn in on May 7, saying they would not be deterred by police raids on homes of opposition leaders and a new law stiffening fines for public order offences.
“Those who fought are beyond being scared,” said Valery Zagovny, a 50-year-old who served for the Soviet army in Afghanistan. “Let those behind the red-toothed walls of the Kremlin be scared.”
Helmeted riot police manned metal barriers along parts of the route but the police presence was lighter compared with some earlier protests. Ilya Ponomaryov, an opposition lawmaker, said about 60,000 to 70,000 people had turned out, much higher than the police estimate of 18,000.
Authorities gave permission to yesterday’s rally but the law Putin signed on Friday says participants at public gatherings where order is deemed to have been violated with injury or damage to property can be fined as much as 300,000 roubles ($9,200), about 60 times more than the previous maximum.