Thousands have taken to the streets of Moscow for two major rallies – for and against the outcome of the presidential vote. People on Manege Square celebrated Putin’s victory while those on Pushkin Square protested the result.
About 14,000 people took part in an opposition rally “For Fair Elections” on Pushkin Square, according to police estimates. Organizers, however, say between 20,000 and 40,000 gathered for the demonstration.
The opposition claims the presidential poll was rigged with various techniques to ensure Putin’s landslide victory.
Police were prepared for the arrival of tens of thousands of people. Metal detectors were set up at the entrance to the square, and some 12,000 police officers attended. A number of nearby streets were closed to traffic in case the area needed to be expanded for the gathering. And although the demonstration has now officially ended, about 1,000 protesters are still at the square.
Police have begun arresting demonstrators who refuse to leave the site after the sanctioned rally's end.
Billionaire candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, who came in third in the presidential race with 7.8 per cent of votes cast, joined the opposition rally. He took to the stage to give a speech thanking all of his supporters.
“I want to thank you for not being afraid to come here today, and I thank everybody who – despite that the elections were unjust – gave me their votes,” Prokhorov said to the audience. “I owe you.”
Several prominent opposition figures, including Left Front movement leader Sergey Udaltsov, and co-chairman of the unregistered People’s Freedom Party Boris Nemtsov, were among the speakers.
Prominent anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny also made his appearance on Pushkin Square. He promised to create a “universal propaganda machine” that will work “just as well as the First Channel,” referring to the country's main news station. Navalny pledged to reveal the truth about the “crooks and thieves,” a term he coined to refer to the United Russia party. He called on people to occupy streets and squares and stay there until Putin steps down.
The rally was planned long before Sunday’s presidential poll, as the opposition had been preparing to declare the results illegitimate. The venue for the rally was changed several times but eventually the opposition agreed to gather at Pushkin Square.
With all votes now counted, Vladimir Putin has been declared president-elect and will be heading back to the Kremlin for the country’s top job. He sealed a firm first-round victory over his nearest rival, Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov, who took only about a quarter the number of votes Putin won.
Tens of thousands of observers monitored the poll, with some claiming widespread vote-rigging. Putin stated Monday that all alleged violations would be investigated.
Police have arrested 50 protesters who took part in an unsanctioned rally near FSB headquarters. Leader of the banned National Bolshevik party Eduard Limonov, together with his supporters, attempted to hold a protest on Lubyanka Square.
A group of journalists has been arrested and dragged to police vans on Lubyanka Square, RT’s correspondent Tom Barton reports. All of them were released after police checked their IDs though one of the journalists claims to have been beaten by the police. Authorities say they will investigate the incident.
Another journalist has reportedly been beaten by a group of nationalists. Police have already arrested the suspects.
The Interior Ministry says that in total, around 250 protesters have been arrested in Moscow.
Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg about 300 protesters have been arrested during an unsanctioned opposition rally on St. Isaac's Square.
At the same time, thousands flooded Moscow’s Manege Square for another rally – this one in support of Putin, whose victory at Sunday’s elections will see him running Russia for the next six years.
Police estimated about 15,000 people came to the square, which lies adjacent to the Kremlin. Activists waved Russia’s tricolor and flags with “Putin” emblazoned on them.
"Guys, more and more people are coming. It is obvious that we will have to pay an administrative fine for exceeding the number of participants of our meeting," said State Duma Deputy Andrey Isaev as he opened the rally, organized by the Russian youth movement Nashi.
Pro-Putin rallies are being held for a second day after the Prime Minister was declared the winner of the presidential race with preliminary results indicating he had scooped 63.6 per cent of the vote.
Moscow police say over 110,000 people came to Manege Square on Sunday evening to celebrate Putin’s victory after the polls closed.