Russia protests: Thousands rally in 'Day of Wrath' against Putin
This weekend's Russia protests, in which thousands gathered in 20 Russian cities for 'Day of Wrath' demonstrations against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other government officials, brought together diverse political forces.
A wave of coordinated antigovernment protests around Russia this weekend will likely be heard in the Kremlin as distant thunder, and not an immediate challenge to the still-popular Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, say analysts.Skip to next paragraph
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But Mr. Putin might be wise to take note of the Tea Party-like "Day of Wrath" rallies that struck 20 Russian cities on Saturday – from the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad to the Pacific port of Vladivostok – because they illustrate a growing willingness among crisis-hit Russians to take their grievances into the streets as well as an extraordinary, Internet-driven ability to coordinate their actions across the country's expanse of 11 time zones.
"These rallies brought together very diverse – even opposing – political forces, who mainly directed their anger at local authorities and not against the Kremlin," says Boris Kagarlitsky, a longtime political activist and head of the independent Institute for Globalization and Social Movements in Moscow.
"But the organization was brilliant. They managed to have 20 events involving a dozen different groups – liberals, environmentalists, Stalinists, human rights activists – and bring them together at the same time and place," to express a shared, if inchoate, rage against the government, he says.
The biggest rallies, of between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters each, were in Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, and St. Petersburg, where automobile owners angry at new taxes and traffic police corruption joined with liberals expressing outrage over alleged fraud in recent regional elections, and human rights workers who complain the window for dissent in Russia is slamming shut.
Website mysteriously shut down
Authorities in most cities did not overtly ban the rallies, as has often happened in the past, but the independent Ekho Moskvi radio station reported Friday that a website dedicated to coordinating the meetings (www.20marta.ru) was mysteriously shut down, and remains inaccessible.
A planned meeting in Moscow, which was prohibited by the city's conservative mayor, Yury Luzhkov, drew around 200 people, who were greatly outnumbered by massive ranks of riot police surrounding the central Pushkin Square. Moscow police said that 70 people were arrested, most of whom were quickly released.