December 26, 2011
Russia’s leadership was forced to defend its legitimacy yesterday after about 100,000 demonstrators rallied in central Moscow to demand democratic reform and fair elections in the largest wave of popular dissent since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The rally on Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue on Saturday was the fourth and by far the biggest of the mass demonstrations provoked by the parliamentary vote held on 4 December. The ruling United Russia party, led by the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, held on to a slim majority in parliament in those elections, but the results have been tainted by claims of wholesale fraud.
The demonstrators stood for hours in sub-zero weather on Saturday listening to a line-up of speakers as diverse as the crowd itself, including TV celebrities, writers, musicians, politicians, scientists and a jailed dissident whose video message was broadcast on a giant screen beside the stage.
“The people are waking up,” said Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front opposition group who was arrested on the day of the elections as he heading to a rally. “The people have stopped putting up with this humiliating regime.”