30,000: Moscow faces biggest protest in years

The biggest opposition rally in recent Russian history is taking place in the capital. The protest against the results of Russia’s December 4 parliamentary election is expected to draw a turnout of as many as 30,000.

The rally is being held on Bolotnaya Square, in Central Moscow, on December 10 between 2 pm and 6 pm.

According to Interior Ministry estimates, around 15,000 people have already gathered at the scene.

Police are blocking access to the squares adjacent to the Kremlin and have restricted entry to Red Square from Revolution Square.

Security is being stepped up with police trucks and Interior Ministry troops being moved closer to the scene.

Moscow officials had previously provided protestors with a permit for a 300-strong meeting on Revolution Square, not far from the Kremlin’s walls. But as tens of thousands signed up for the event on social networks, the rally’s organizers agreed to the city’s suggestion that the rally be staged on Bolotnaya Square, which can hold a larger crowd.  And is only about 2 kilometers away from the initial location.

The new venue was offered by Moscow authorities out of security considerations..

There are announcements in the Moscow Metro, and police throughout the city center are informing citizens about the change of venue.

The Russian internet community has been boiling over reports of alleged falsifications emerged online after the December 4 vote.

From sharing numerous press articles on Facebook, to posting detailed instructions on how a demonstrator should dress and behave, Russians on the Internet have been actively involved in planning for the rally. Detailed lists of things one must have while attending a protest are also popular.

And when ten times more people than expected signed up online for the rally at Revolution Square – which can house no more than 300 protesters – they welcomed the change of location in light of safety concerns.

The opposition demands “the annulment of the election results and the resignation of the Central Election Commission chairman.” It also calls on authorities to investigate violations and falsifications reported by election observers, and to punish those behind the irregularities.

There have also been active calls on the Internet to respect law and order at Saturday’s demonstration. Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev has warned protestors that police will foil any attempt to stage unsanctioned demonstrations, and will bring troublemakers to account.

The news media have promptly responded by publishing info graphics depicting the rights and responsibilities of protesters and riot police.

“Do not split the rally in two parts.  Do not go to Revolution Square. Do not march. This is a peaceful rally.  Tens of thousands of people will come – this is already quite incredible,” Ilya Krasilshchikov, editor-in-chief of Afisha Magazine, has been repeatedly quoted as saying.

Mass demonstrations have been held in Moscow, St. Petersburg and a number of other cities across Russia since December 5. The day after the elections, a rally was held at Chistiye Prudy, a tree-lined park in Central Moscow. According to various reports, between 2,000 to 5,000 people participated – but eventually, a group of protestors began an unsanctioned march down Myasnitskaya Street towards FSB headquarters, and as a result, more than 300 people were arrested.

On December 6, an unsanctioned opposition protest was held at Triumfalnaya Square. According to official reports, around 2,000  people gathered at the rally, and more than 300 of them were arrested – including Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin, Solidarnost leader  Boris Nemtsov  and Other  Russia  leader  Eduard  Limonov.  Meanwhile, the opposition claims there have been over 500 arrests.

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