Russia braces for rallies demanding fresh polls

Putin`s United Russia party won about 50 percent of the vote in the Parliamentary election.

Last Updated: Dec 09, 2011, 17:47 PM IST

Moscow: The opposition parties spearheading
the post election protests have threatened to widen their
demonstrations country-wide as the Russian capital braced for
a massive rally challenging just concluded polls which have
sent Moscow`s relations with Washington to an all time low.

Russian opposition leaders will hold, what they claim is
the biggest countrywide rallies tomorrow to seek fresh polls
of the State Duma in view of alleged rigging by Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin`s United Russia Party in last weekend`s
parliamentary elections.

In Moscow, around 30,000 people are likely to gather
Bolotnaya Square near the Kremlin after the joint opposition
movement `Solidarnost` (Solidarity) received permission to
hold protest rally.

Besides Moscow, anti-regime rallies will also be
organised in at least 13 other major cities.

Putin`s United Russia party won about 50 percent of the
vote in the Parliamentary election, barely holding onto its
majority in the State Duma -- lower house of the Parliament.

Earlier they were seeking permission to hold rally at
Revolution Square facing Bolshoi Theatre and State Duma
building, however, the City Hall was for limiting its strength
to only 300 protesters.

However, through Facebook and home-grown `VKontakte`
social networking sites, over 50 thousand Russians had
expressed willingness to join the protest, Newsru website
reported.

"The rally organisers agreed to hold the rally on
Bolotnaya Square offered to them by Moscow authorities in
order to ensure that security measures are observed," Deputy
Mayor Alexander Gorbenko told reporters.

Ahead of countrywide protest rallies in a televised
statement, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev cautioned the
opposition that "tough action" will be taken against them in
case of breach of public law and order.

Several liberal websites, which remain the only source of
information about protest wave, have reported about the
armoured vehicles being moved into the capital by the
authorities, which have already deployed a massive contingent
of riot police and interior troops after a sanctioned rally
protesters had tried to march towards Election Commission`s
headquarters on Monday night.

Newsru website reported about a column of six armoured
personnel carriers moving on the Moscow`s outer ring road.

Yesterday, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister
Putin, who blamed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
the State Department of instigating protest wave, upheld the
opposition`s democratic right to hold public protests within
the four corners of law.

Speaking in the Czech capital Prague last night, Medvedev
said the street protests were an expression of democracy and
called for probing into all the cases of alleged election
fraud like ballot stuffing.

Chairman of Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov
said many video clips alleging ballot rigging uploaded in the
internet were "doctored" and some of them were recorded in
makeshift studios in apartments and not at the polling
stations.

He has also approached the Investigations Committee to
launch a probe in all the cases of alleged fraud.
In a parallel move, the interior minister has ordered the
police to submit a report on poll violations by December 15.
He underscored that police personnel were deployed at all
the polling stations.

A prominent member of the ruling United Russia party,
which won Sunday`s poll with 49.3 per cent votes, has declared
that his party was ready to accept the verdict of the courts.

"If all the procedures are followed and court rules
fraud, we will accept the verdict. Our opponents should work
in this direction and not take to streets," Deputy Speaker in
the outgoing Duma, Oleg Morozov of United Russia told
Interfax.

PTI