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Dmitry Medvedev

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Another 31 people have been arrested during opposition protests in Moscow, the second Sunday in succession to see such demonstrations.

Last week, at least 1,000 people were detained during protests in Moscow, reportedly the largest in five years.

Russian opposition has called for the resignation of PM Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.

A smaller group of about 100 people began marching through Moscow on April 2, but were blocked by police.

While police said 31 people had been arrested for “breaches of public order”, OVD-Info, a website monitoring detentions, said 56 people including four minors were arrested.

Those who organized the protest via social media are now facing an investigation.

Image source AFP

March 26 demonstrations in Moscow and across Russia were prompted by main opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was later arrested.

Police said 500 people were held, but OVD-Info said at least 1,000 people were arrested in Moscow alone.

Alexei Navalny had published reports claiming that Dmitry Medvedev controlled mansions, yachts and vineyards – a fortune that far outstripped his official salary.

PM Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman called the allegations “propagandistic attacks”, but the prime minister himself has not commented on the claims.

Alexei Navalny has announced his intention to run for president in 2018 against Vladimir Putin. However, he is barred from doing so after being found guilty in a case he said was politicized.

The opposition leader was sentenced to 15 days in prison for his role in March 26 demonstrations. His spokesman said on Twitter that he had nothing to do with the new protest.

Organizers told news agencies that they had planned to march towards the Kremlin on April 2 when they were stopped by police.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that about 400 people had taken part in an authorized anti-corruption rally in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

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The EU has demanded the release “without delay” of more than 500 people detained in protests across Russia on March 26.

The US state department also said protesters should be able to “exercise their rights without fear of retribution”.

The protesters urged Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to quit over corruption allegations.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called the protests and was one of those arrested, appeared at court on March 27.

Alexei Navalny, 40, tweeted from the building: “Hello everyone from Tversky Court. The time will come when we will have them on trial (but honestly).”

He also said that PM Dmitry Medvedev should be summoned by the court as the chief organizer of the protests.

Alexei Navalny has yet to go before a judge but is likely to face charges relating to organizing banned protests and could be held for 15 days.

March 26 protests drew thousands of protesters nationwide, including in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and several other cities, as well as Moscow.

At least 500 protesters were detained. Most of the marches were organized without official permission.

TV footages showed demonstrators chanting “Down with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin!”, “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!”.

Correspondents say the marches appear to be the biggest since anti-government demonstrations in 2011 and 2012.

An EU spokesman said the Russian police action had “prevented the exercise of basic freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, which are fundamental rights enshrined in the Russian constitution”.

The statement added: “We call on the Russian authorities to abide fully by the international commitments it has made… and to release without delay the peaceful demonstrators that have been detained.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement: “The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution.”

Alexei Navalny called for the nationwide protests after he published reports claiming that PM Dmitry Medvedev controlled mansions, yachts and vineyards – a fortune that suggests income that far outstrips his official salary.

His report, posted on YouTube, has been viewed more than 11 million times.

It includes the accusation that Dmitry Medvedev had a special house for a duck on one of his properties – and on March 26, some demonstrators held up images of yellow rubber ducks.

Others showed up with their faces painted green, a reference to a recent attack in which Alexei Navalny was hit with green liquid.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been arrested at an anti-corruption protest he organized in Moscow.

Thousands of people joined rallies nationwide, calling for the resignation of PM Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.

At least 500 other protesters were detained in Moscow and across Russia.

Most of the marches were illegal, organized without official permission.

TV footages showed demonstrators chanting “Down with [Vladimir] Putin!”, “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!”.

Correspondents say the marches appear to be the biggest since anti-government demonstrations in 2011 and 2012.

Alexei Navalny was detained as he arrived to join the rally in central Moscow. Protesters then tried to prevent a police van from taking him away.

Image source Wikimedia

In a tweet after his detention, Alexei Navalny urged fellow protesters to continue with the demonstration.

He said: “Guys, I’m fine. No need to fight to get me out. Walk along Tverskaya [Moscow main street]. Our topic of the day is the fight against corruption.”

Alexei Navalny later said police stormed the office of his foundation and detained its staff, who were broadcasting the protests live.

Demonstrations were also held in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and several other cities, where arrests had also been reported.

In Moscow, protesters filled Pushkin square and some climbed the monument to poet Alexander Pushkin shouting “impeachment”. Turnout was estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000, according to police.

The police said 500 protesters had been arrested in the capital alone, but a rights group, OVD Info, put that number at least 700.

The Kremlin has not commented on the demonstrations. It had said on Friday that plans for an unauthorized protest in central Moscow were an illegal provocation.

State TV channels did not cover the demonstrations.

Local media reports suggested the authorities pressured students not to attend. In some cities, exams were scheduled on March 26.

Alexei Navalny announced his intention to run for president in 2018 against Vladimir Putin.

However, he is barred from doing so after being found guilty in a case he said was politicized.

Alexei Navalny said on his website that protests were planned in 99 cities, but that in 72 of them authorities did not give permission.

Oil prices fell below $30 a barrel on international markets for the first time since April 2004, before recovering again.

Brent crude, used as an international benchmark, fell as low as $29.96, but bounced back to trade at $30.22.

Oil prices have fallen by 70% in the past 15 months.

Earlier, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev warned tumbling oil prices could force his country to revise its 2016 budget.

Dmitry Medvedev said that the country must be prepared for a “worst-case” economic scenario if the price continued to fall.

Taxes from oil and gas generates about half the Russian government’s revenue.

The 2016 federal budget that was approved in October was based on an oil price of $50 a barrel in 2016 – a figure President Vladimir Putin has since described as “unrealistic”.

Government departments have been ordered to cut spending by 10%, repeating a policy imposed in 2015, Reuters reported.Oil price and Russia economy

Pensions and pay for government workers will be protected from the cuts, which could save as much as 700 billion rubles ($9.1 billion).

Finance minister Anton Siluanov said that the Russian budget could only be balanced at an oil price of $82 a barrel.

He said the 2016 budget should be revised to assume an oil price of $40 a barrel.

“Our task is to adapt our budget to the new realities,” Anton Siluanov said.

Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev warned that Russia faced a long period of low commodity prices with oil at $15 or $20 a barrel.

“The biggest risk is that there will be low prices for a long time – that is, for years, for decades,” he said.

Dmitry Medvedev also said that high interest rates were holding back economic growth in Russia.

The Bank of Russia held rates at 11% last month, with Governor Elvira Nabiullina warning of “high volatility” in global markets.

In 2015, the central bank shocked markets by increasing rates from 10.5% to 17%.

Inflation stands at 15% in Russia, but the bank hopes it would fall to 4% by 2017.

Russia has announced it is extending its list of countries subject to a food import ban in retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said the ban would now apply to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania and Montenegro.

Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine would be added in 2016 if an economic agreement between Kiev and the EU came into force.

The bulldozing of tonnes of Western-produced cheese and other foodstuffs has angered anti-poverty campaigners.

Russia began destroying banned produce earlier this month, steamrollering fruit and burning boxes of bacon. Critics say it should be used to feed the poor and hungry.

The move comes after the EU and US introduced sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine.

Photo RIA Novosti

Photo RIA Novosti

Certain products from EU countries as well as Australia, Canada, Norway and the US were banned in August last year.

Speaking at a cabinet of ministers on August 13, Dmitry Medvedev said Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania and Montenegro would also now be affected because they had joined EU sanctions against Russia.

“Joining the sanctions is a conscious choice which means readiness for retaliatory measures from our part, which have been adopted,” the prime minister said in comments broadcast on state-owned channel Rossiya 24.

The ban includes meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.

Dmitry Medvedev previously said that the counter-sanctions had given domestic agriculture a significant boost and had not caused shortages, according to Rossiya 24.

Russian authorities have also started burning Dutch flowers, saying they pose a safety risk because they may be infected with pests.

However, critics say Russia wants to take revenge on the Netherlands over its handling of the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last year.

In a rare move against President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Communist Party announced on August 13 it had submitted a bill to parliament calling for smuggled Western food to be given to the needy instead of being destroyed.

The Kremlin says food cannot be given away because it could be unsafe.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter account was hacked on Thursday with the infiltrators posting a message claiming the premier had resigned.

The Russian-language feed, which has more than 2.5 million followers, was also filled with tweets denouncing President Vladimir Putin.

The impersonator wrote that Dmitry Medvedev would be pursuing a new career as a freelance photographer.

A Russian hacking collective has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hackers wrote on Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter account that he had resign and would be pursuing a new career as a freelance photographer

Hackers wrote on Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter account that he had resign and would be pursuing a new career as a freelance photographer (photo Twitter)

The government quickly confirmed the account had been hacked.

“I resign. I am ashamed of the government’s actions. I’m sorry,” the infiltrators initially wrote, following it up with tweets saying that electricity would be banned, and that Vladimir Putin was “wrong”.

Shaltay-Boltay, a Russian hacking collective, has said it carried out the attack.

The group, whose name is Russian for Humpty Dumpty, also claimed it had infiltrated the Gmail account and iPhones of Dmitry Medvedev.

Shaltay-Boltay tweeted: “Several mail accounts – including the Gmail – and the content of three iPhones of a certain prime minister have randomly fallen into our hands on the internet. Details later.”

Dmitry Medvedev’s English-language Twitter account did not appear to be affected by the attack.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine’s interim authorities had conducted an “armed mutiny”.

And the Russian foreign ministry said dissenters in mainly Russian-speaking regions faced suppression.

Earlier, Ukraine’s interim interior minister said an arrest warrant had been issued for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday. His whereabouts are unknown but he was reported to have been in the Crimean peninsula on Sunday.

Russia has already recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultation.

Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine’s interim authorities had conducted an armed mutiny

Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine’s interim authorities had conducted an armed mutiny

Unrest in Ukraine began in November when Viktor Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, quoted by Russian news agencies, suggested that Western countries that accepted Ukraine’s new authorities were mistaken.

“The legitimacy of a whole number of organs of power that function there raises great doubts,” he said.

“Some of our foreign, Western partners think otherwise. This is some kind of aberration of perception when people call legitimate what is essentially the result of an armed mutiny.”

He added: “We do not understand what is going on there. There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens.”

Ukraine’s foreign ministry quickly responded to Dmitry Medvedev’s comments on Russian citizens in Ukraine, saying his concerns were “unfounded”.

However, Russia’s foreign ministry also issued a strongly worded statement saying a “forced change of power” was taking place in Ukraine and accused interim leaders of passing new laws “aimed at infringing the humanitarian rights of Russians and other ethnic minorities”.

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Russian police have seized a painting depicting President Vladimir Putin in women’s underwear from an art gallery in St Petersburg.

The portrait features President Vladimir Putin combing the hair of Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev.

Two other pictures were also seized which poked fun at conservative Russian politicians who led a campaign to introduce controversial anti-gay laws.

Police said the paintings broke unspecified legislation.

The portrait features President Vladimir Putin combing the hair of Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev

The portrait features President Vladimir Putin combing the hair of Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev

A fourth painting depicting the head of the Russian Orthodox Church adorned with tattoos was also confiscated from the Museum of the Authorities.

Gallery owner Aleksander Donskoy claimed he had been given no formal warrant or explanation for the removal of the paintings, which were included in an exhibition entitled Rulers, by Arkhangelsk artist Konstantin Altunin.

One of the pictures seized features Vladimir Putin in a nightgown, standing behind Dmitry Medvedev and stroking his hair, while the prime minister is depicted with a woman’s body and wearing lingerie.

Another painting shows St Petersburg legislative assembly member Vitaly Milonov – one of the architects of Russia’s anti-gay laws – against the background of a rainbow, the symbol of gay pride.

St Petersburg, which hosts the G20 summit next week, was one of the first Russian cities to introduce a law against what it terms “gay propaganda”.

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The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow.

In August, the trio were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.

The appeal was adjourned last week because one of the defendants said she wanted time to replace her lawyer.

Yekaterina Samutsevich told the judge she had a difference of opinion with her original counsel.

The 30-year-old and fellow band members Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August.

Their imprisonment sparked condemnation in many parts of the world.

The band performed an obscenity-laced song in front of the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February.

The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow

The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow

The “punk prayer” – which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, the band said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president – enraged the Church.

But while the Church hierarchy said the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, it added that any penitence shown should be taken into consideration.

Those comments followed a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment.

But the women’s lawyers have said their clients would not repent if it meant admitting guilt.

They have said they doubt the appeal will be successful, with analysts suggesting that while the band members’ sentences might be reduced, they were unlikely to be overturned.

 

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A Russian court in Moscow has begun hearing an appeal by three activists from punk band Pussy Riot.

In August, three members of Pussy Riot were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Sunday that clemency should be possible for the trio as long as they repented what they called their “punk prayer”.

But their lawyers have said that they doubt the appeal will be successful.

The three band members – Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 – were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August.

Their imprisonment sparked condemnation in many parts of the world.

The Pussy Riot members were all present in the Moscow court on Monday, in a glass-fronted defendants’ cage.

Yekaterina Samutsevich argued with the judge, complaining that her request for a different defence lawyer had not been met. The hearing was then adjourned temporarily.

Their obscenity-laced performance on 21 February, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, they said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president, enraged the Church.

But, in a statement, the Church said that though the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, if they showed penitence and reconsideration of their action their words “shouldn’t be left unnoticed”.

“The Church sincerely wishes for the repentance of those who desecrated a holy place, certainly it would benefit their souls,” senior Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said.

The Church’s comments follow a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last month that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment for the women.

Their lawyers have said that their clients will not repent if it means admitting guilt.

“If they [the Church] mean repentance in the sense of a crime … it definitely won’t happen. Our clients won’t admit guilt. A call for that is pointless,” lawyer Mark Feigin told independent TV channel Dozhd on Sunday.

The father of one of the jailed women said that whether they repent or not, the trio has little hope of their sentences being quashed.

“The sentence is predetermined; their repentance will not affect it in any way,” Stanislav Samutsevich told Reuters.

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Russian opposition activist Taisiya Osipova has been jailed for possession of heroin for eight years – double the sentence requested by the prosecution.

Supporters of Taisiya Osipova, 28, say her trial was politically motivated.

Taisya Osipova said the drugs were planted in revenge for her refusal to testify against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, a leader of the Other Russia movement.

Her case was a retrial after ex-President Dmitry Medvedev called her original 10-year sentence “too harsh”.

Russian opposition activist Taisiya Osipova has been jailed for possession of heroin for 8 years, double the sentence requested by the prosecution

Russian opposition activist Taisiya Osipova has been jailed for possession of heroin for 8 years, double the sentence requested by the prosecution

Taisiya Osipova was arrested in 2010 when four grams of heroin were allegedly found in her home.

Her 10-year sentence in late 2011 was criticized both inside and outside Russia, not least because she had a young daughter and suffered from diabetes, which led to health complications in prison.

Dmitry Medvedev asked for her case to be reviewed.

At the trial in Smolensk, about 400 km (250 miles) west of Moscow, Taisiya Osipova continued to protest her innocence.

One witness, who passed a lie detector test, testified that he had seen the police plant the drugs during their search.

At the courthouse, one of Russia’s most prominent opposition figures, Sergei Udaltsov, denounced the sentence as “schizophrenic and monstrous”, and “the triumph of lawlessness and cynicism”.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Kremlin’s own council on human rights, described the verdict as a “legal mistake”.

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Vladimir Putin is back to Kremlin where he is inaugurated as president of Russia in a ceremony in the capital, Moscow.

Vladimir Putin is returning to the presidency after an absence of four years in which he served as prime minister. The outgoing President, Dmitry Medvedev, was widely seen as an ally of Vladimir Putin.

He won a third term as president in controversial elections in March.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters opposed to the inauguration clashed with police in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin took the presidential oath at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in a hall that was once the throne room of the Russian tsars.

Vladimir Putin is back to Kremlin where he is inaugurated as president of Russia in a ceremony in Moscow

Vladimir Putin is back to Kremlin where he is inaugurated as president of Russia in a ceremony in Moscow

In a short speech he said Russia was “entering a new phase of national development”.

“We will have to decide tasks of a new level, a new quality and scale. The coming years will be decisive for Russia’s fate for decades to come.”

Vladimir Putin said Dmitry Medvedev had given a new impulse to modernization, and the “transformation” of Russia must continue.

He also spoke of the need to strengthen Russian democracy and constitutional rights.

If he completes his six-year term, Vladimir Putin will be the longest serving Russian leader since Soviet supreme ruler Joseph Stalin.

However, Vladimir Putin faces many problems; the political system he created has been showing cracks, economic growth is forecast to slow, and violence in the volatile North Caucasus continues.

How Vladimir Putin deals with the wave of opposition protests which broke out last December will also be a key test of his administration.

Sunday’s protest against the inauguration was peaceful until a small group of demonstrators tried to break through the lines of riot police.

Some of the protesters launched a sit-in by the police lines, refusing to leave unless the inauguration was cancelled.

They were also demanding an hour of TV airtime and new elections.

Prominent opposition activists Alexei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov were among dozens detained.

A rival demonstration in support of Vladimir Putin also took place in the city.

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Vladimir Putin is celebrating his victory in Russian elections, which will give him a third presidential term after spending the last four years as the country’s prime minister.

With more than 99% of the ballots counted, Vladimir Putin secured nearly 64% of the vote, according to Russian election officials.

Vladimir Putin told supporters in Moscow he had won in an open and honest battle.

But Golos, a leading independent election watchdog, said the polls could not be considered fair and open.

It said there were instances of forced voting, numerous reports of “carousel” voting – in which voters cast multiple ballots – and that campaigning had been insufficiently competitive.

“Such elections cannot be called fair, just and open according to the Russian constitution and international standards,” a Golos spokeswoman said at a news conference on Monday morning.

Vladimir Putin is celebrating his victory in Russian elections, which will give him a third presidential term after spending the last four years as the country's prime minister

Vladimir Putin is celebrating his victory in Russian elections, which will give him a third presidential term after spending the last four years as the country's prime minister

 

Golos put Vladimir Putin’s count at just over 50% – far less than the official figure given by the election commission.

Opposition groups have also alleged widespread fraud, and plan a protest rally in Moscow later on Monday.

Tens of thousands of supporters of Vladimir Putin – with Russian flags and banners – took part in a concert outside the Kremlin to celebrate his victory late on Sunday.

Making a brief appearance with current President Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin thanked his supporters from “every corner” of the country.

“I promised you we would win, and we won,” Vladimir Putin said, his eyes watering. “Glory to Russia!”

“We have won in an open and honest battle.

“We proved that no one can force anything on us.”

Slogans on the banner included “Putin – our president” and “We believe in Putin”.

Vladimir Putin, who supported Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin race in 2008 and became prime minister because of a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term as president, will now be in office until 2018. He could then run for another six-year term.

There was tight security around the capital, with 6,000 extra police brought in from outside.

On Monday morning the electoral commission said that with more than 99% of the votes counted, Vladimir Putin won 63.75%, enough to give him a first-round victory over nearest rival Gennady Zyuganov, who polled 17.19%

The other three candidates were in single digits.

The turnout is predicted to be about 63%.

After the polls closed, Gennady Zyuganov – the leader of the Communist Party who has previously been relatively loyal to Vladimir Putin – described the elections as “unfair and unworthy”.

But he said that with increasing public anger, Vladimir Putin “would not be able to rule like he used to”.

“These elections cannot be considered legitimate in any way,” said Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the leaders of the street protest movement, which was not represented in the election.

However, Vladimir Putin’s campaign chief Stanislav Govorukhin described the poll as “the cleanest in Russian history”.

The election was held against a backdrop of popular discontent, sparked by allegations of widespread fraud during December’s parliamentary elections in favor of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

The alleged fraud came despite the presence of thousands of independent observers and web cameras at polling stations.

Opposition blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny said: “Grandiose scale of falsifications, especially in Moscow… mass use of carousel voting.”

Also on Monday morning, Dmitry Medvedev announced he had ordered a review of the conviction of jailed former tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic who was once Russia’s richest man, was found guilty of embezzlement in 2010 in what many considered to have been a politically motivated trial.

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Tens of thousands of people gathered in central Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin and the alleged electoral fraud.

The protesters passed a resolution “not to give a single vote to Vladimir Putin” at next year’s presidential election.

Protest leader Alexei Navalny told the crowd to loud applause that Russians would no longer tolerate corruption.

“I see enough people here to take the Kremlin and [Government House] right now but we are peaceful people and won’t do that just yet,” Alexei Navalny said.

Protesters say parliamentary elections on December 4, which were won by Vladimir Putin’s party, were rigged. The government denies the accusation.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in central Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin and the alleged electoral fraud

Tens of thousands of people gathered in central Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin and the alleged electoral fraud

 

A sea of demonstrators stretched along Sakharov Avenue, a few miles from the Kremlin, in sub-zero temperatures.

Rallies were taking place across Russia, with the first big protest in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

At least 28,000 people turned out in the capital, according to the Russian interior ministry, but rally organizers said the true number was around 120,000.

President Dmitry Medvedev announced political reforms this week, but many demonstrators say it is not enough.

They are demanding a re-run of the poll, which was won by Vladimir Putin’s party – but with a much smaller share of the overall vote.

Vladimir Putin poured scorn on protesters during a recent live chat on Russian TV, calling them “Banderlog” after the lawless monkeys in The Jungle Book, and likening their protest symbol, a white ribbon, to a condom.

However, Vladimir Putin also said protesters had the right to demonstrate if they kept within the law.

In Moscow, many protesters clutched white balloons and banners with the slogan “For Free Elections” while some mocked Vladimir Putin with images of condoms, to the extent that the first speaker, music journalist Artyom Troitsky, dressed himself up as one.

The resolution passed at Saturday’s rally built on demands expressed at an earlier rally in Moscow on December 10.

Another new point was a call for the creation of a new election monitoring body – the Moscow Voters’ Association – to investigate ballot-rigging.

Alexei Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption blogger who was jailed for 15 days over a street protest just after the elections, greeted the crowd with the words: “Greetings to the Banderlog from the net hamsters [internet activists].”

Condemning Russia’s leaders as “swindlers and thieves”, he listed victims of injustice including imprisoned former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody.

“Who’s the power here?” he shouted to cries of “We are” from the crowd.

Alexei Navalny promised that the next protest rally would be a “million strong”.

Alexei Kudrin, who recently resigned after serving a decade as Vladimir Putin’s finance minister, was booed when he took the microphone to call for early parliamentary elections and urge a dialogue between the Kremlin and the opposition.

“There needs to be a platform for dialogue, otherwise there will be a revolution and we lose the chance that we have today for a peaceful transformation,” he said.

A total of 22 speakers were lined up for the Moscow rally, with rival opposition figures addressing a crowd which mixed liberals with nationalists.

• In a video message, Russian rock musician Yury Shevchuk urged protesters to maintain their dignity and avoid “competing in hatred for the authorities”

• Billionaire and Putin election challenger Mikhail Prokhorov had been expected to address the rally but stayed in the crowd, saying he had heard presidential candidates were “not supposed to speak”

• Another presidential candidate, veteran liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, did speak, and called for a free electoral system

• Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 80, did not attend after all, sending a message of support instead. He later told Moscow Echo radio that Mr Putin should not stand for another term in office

Saturday’s rally in Moscow ended peacefully, with the last speaker a Grandfather Frost (Russian Santa Claus) figure who wished citizens of a “free Russia” a Happy New Year.

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joined a biker gang on Monday and led them on motorcade at a festival in Novorossiysk, a Black Sea port.

 

Vladimir Putin, 58, was riding a three-wheeled Harley Davidson and looking very much at home in the latest of macho stunts that have punctuated his political career.

It is well known that Putin’s eccentric photos topless horse-riding and hunting have earned him the nickname “Alpha Dog” in U.S. diplomatic circles.

After riding around for a while, black-clad Vladimir Putin boarded a Soviet-era warship in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, where the prime minister took part to a festival that mark the city’s liberation during the Second World War.

Vladimir Putin was riding a three wheeled Harley Davidson while he led the motorcade

Vladimir Putin was riding a three wheeled Harley Davidson while he led the motorcade

During his speech at the festival, Putin called the bikers his “brothers”:

“I want to talk to you, brothers. It is cool that you do not forget the heroes of the past.

“Boys, girls you are great. Not only are you having fun while riding your bikes but you are also combining it with patriotic deeds.”

Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, intends to secure a 2/3 majority in December’s elections for the Duma lower house of parliament.

The 2/3 majority would give United Russia the power to change the constitution.

It seems campaigning began for real on Monday, after President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree setting the date for the poll as December 4.

The Russian elections from next December will also set the scene for a presidential poll in March 2012.

Nor prime minister Vladimir Putin or president Dmitry Medvedev have said who will run for the presidential race.

At Novorossiysk motorcade, Putin rode along “Night Wolves” biker club members with the hard-rock club anthem in the background.

“Night Wolves” club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed “Surgeon”, one of Vladimir Putin’s friends.

"Night Wolves" club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed "Surgeon", one of Vladimir Putin's friends

"Night Wolves" club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed "Surgeon", one of Vladimir Putin's friends

During his participation at the festival, Vladimir Putin was flanked by veterans of World War Two and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

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