A demonstration to mark one year of protests in Russia against President Vladimir Putin went ahead today in Moscow with many detained but no arrests.
Thousands led by prominent opposition leaders marched outside the former KGB headquarters in freezing temperatures, The Associated Press reported.
It’s been one year since elections fraught with fraud accusations forced tens of thousands from their homes to rail against Putin’s government.
They were some of the largest ever demonstrations against Putin, who returned to the presidency after four years as prime minister with two-thirds of the vote.
“The people who have come here are free, honest and decent people,” opposition politician Boris Nemtsov told The Associated Press.
“(The government) wanted to scare us, there’s a helicopter flying over us and they’ve surrounded us with policemen. They think that we’re slaves, but we’re not. We’re free people, and thank God for that.”
Those in attendance risked fines of $9,000 for participating in an unauthorized demonstration, a strict new fine imposed earlier this year.
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Marchers are want an end to Putin’s 13 years in office, Reuters reported.
They shouted “Down with the police state” and “Russia without Putin” in Lubyanka Square in Moscow, according to Reuters.
Police detained prominent opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Alexei Navalny at the rally and stopped Ilya Yashin and Ksenia Sobchak from arriving.
In all, police detained 40 although all were released without charges a few hours later after police had broken up the unauthorized demonstration.
“I don't know how many people are here, but I am proud of each and every one of those who came here,” Navalny told Reuters before his detention. “The main thing is that people are here, that they are expressing their view and showing that they exist.”
The demonstration lasted for about 2 ½ hours, which is remarkable since it was about 5 F outside.
The opposition says Putin’s United Russia party rigs elections, stifles opponents and limits free speech.
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