- Title: RUSSIA: Russian protesters call for Putin's resignation.
- Date: 15th September 2012
- Summary: MOSCOW, RUSSIA (SEPTEMBER 15, 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF CROWD OF PROTESTERS AT RALLY RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ALEXEI NAVALNY BACKSTAGE PEOPLE COMING ON STAGE RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS ALEXEI NAVALNY AND BORIS NEMTSOV TALKING BACKSTAGE
- Embargoed: 30th September 2012 13:00
- Location: Russian Federation
- Country: Russia
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAA8LFYOMPD1X3EIGJCL0IISINP
- Story Text: Russian opposition leaders call for Vladimir Putin's resignation at a Moscow protest that gathered tens of thousands of people.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched though Moscow under streaming banners, flags and balloons on Saturday (September 15) to demand an end to President Vladimir Putin's long rule and to breathe life into their protest movement.
Protesters chanted "Russia without Putin!" as they marched through central Moscow in the first big rally since June.
Witnesses said opposition leaders appeared to have achieved their goal of attracting at least 50,000 people, enough to maintain the momentum of their movement but almost certainly too few to increase alarm in the Kremlin.
The protest underlined anger over what liberal Russians see as tough measures to smother the opposition since Putin began another six years in the Kremlin in May, but protests have not taken off outside big cities and the opposition is not united.
"Our political demands are very clear. The immediate release of political prisoners, are you for it? Second, holding new fair parliamentary and presidential elections under civil society control, are you for it? Third, we must destroy this thievery Putin monarchy. To do that, we need to limit the presidential powers, we need to change the constitution, we need to strengthen the role of parliament," opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said from the stage.
"If we do not demand Putin's resignation, if we do not demand new presidential elections, we will not be able to change anything in the country," he added.
"It is great to come to a rally and see a sea of people. But every one of us should tell himself that these authorities will go down in the near future, but even if we do not succeed in that, if those people will be in power for years and they will put not only botox into Putin's head but also a body of a bat (to keep him look young), we will still be coming here. Even if you are the only one left you should come here and stand. But I believe I will not be the only one left," said Alexei Navalny, opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger.
Organisers released white balloons and doves into the cloudy sky and held a long banner declaring: "For early elections! Against repression!"
Protesters held big red, yellow and blue balloons decorated to look like ski masks worn by punk group Pussy Riot and with the words 'Free Pussy Riot' - a reference to three band members jailed after singing an anti-Putin protest in a church.
"Moscow is ours today! The city is ours! The country is ours! Do you know how many cities had people coming to the streets in support of our March of Millions? More than 50 cities are with us today," one of opposition leaders, Sergei Udaltsov, told supporters from the makeshift stage in central Moscow.
The protesters say Putin's return to the Kremlin after four years as premier is a setback for democracy because he could now be in a position to extend his rule of Russia to 24 years if he wins another term when his mandate expires in 2018.
That would keep him in power longer than Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, and opponents fear it would mean political and economic stagnation.
The demonstrations began last December over allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election won by Putin's party and turned into the biggest protests against him since he first became president in 2000, at times drawing up to 100,000 people.
Putin, who turns 60 next month, dismisses the protesters as a minority who do not have wide support across the country of more than 140 million, and his presidential election victory in March took the sting out of the demonstrations.
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