Moscow protests as Putin begins new Popular Front movement


Protesters march through Moscow on June 12, 2013 to show support for anti-Kremlin protesters on trial and in jail.


Vasily Maximov

Some Russians cheered "Putin, Putin, Putin" and elected their president to head the new loyalist Popular Front group, but in Moscow's streets thousands of protesters called for a "Russia without Putin."

Riot police met on Wednesday some 10,000 opposition protesters who marched to demand the release of detained activists for their alleged part in violence at a May 6 protest last year against Putin's third presidential term.

"You can't sit at home when the government begins repressions against ordinary, decent citizens of our country - people who don't want to live in this swamp, people who want to see their country thrive," activist Vitaly Zolomov told the Associated Press.

Some protesters held banners in support of the detainees, others called for Putin's resignation, and still more held pictures of the 12 activists on trial. Ten of the defendants are part of what's called the Bolotnaya case, named after a square in Moscow there the May clashes occurred.

"We want the authorities to stop fabricating criminal cases against opposition leaders and activists," opposition lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov told said. "Those in power are not changing but society is, and if the authorities do not catch up with that the same thing will happen to them as with leaders in some Arab countries," he added.

But at the Popular Front congress, the tone was markedly different. After the march ended, Putin was elected in what Reuters called a "highly choreographed" moment to lead the group he formed in 2011 to help win public support. United Russia, the party now in power, has recently lost popularity, which the Kremlin has attempted to distance itself from, according to the BBC.

"The goal of the People's Front is to give everyone a way to create, create a great country, a great Russia," Putin said. "And we are ready to work with everybody who shares our goals and values and who is ready to share common responsibility for the historic success of our Motherland."

Putin is still Russia's most popular politician. However, the president did receive a 12-year low approval rating of 62 percent in January, according to the Levada Centre.