Rumours about the death of the popular anti-Putin protests in Russia are highly exaggerated. On the eve of the Putin´s re-inauguration thousands of Moscowites took to the streets to voice their opposition against Russia´s criminal ruler. Among those reportedly arrested following the clashes with police were key opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov, Boris Nemtsov, and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny.
Thousands of people marched through central Moscow Sunday, on the eve of Vladimir Putin's inauguration for an unprecedented third term as Russia's president, many chanting angry slogans such as "Putin out!" and "Putin is Russia's shame!"
Unlike the mostly peaceful and even good-natured mass rallies of recent months Sunday's march ended in violence and hundreds of arrests as heavily-armored, tear gas-firing riot police moved in on a contingent of protesters who were attempting to cross a bridge that police had barricaded. The independent Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvi reported that police arrested 400 people.
Police put the number of protesters at 8,000, but organizers claimed that more than 20,000 people came out to march down a major Moscow avenue in the warm spring sunshine to Bolotnaya Square, within sight of the Kremlin, where they were to hear a rock concert and speeches from key opposition leaders.
The crowd was far larger than either organizers or police had anticipated; last week authorities granted a permit for just 5,000 participants. Many had predicted that the middle class pro-democracy movement would wane following Mr. Putin's decisive electoral victory in March, and fractious opposition leaders had already begun blaming one another for the decline in public support.
But anti-Putin Muscovites, organizing themselves through Facebook and the Russian-language VKontakte rather than through opposition parties and groups, appear to have handed everybody another surprise by showing up in numbers that journalists on the scene agreed were closer to the 20,000 estimate.
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Putin must know that he and his fellow thugocrats will not win this battle. He can - and will - order more police brutality, but that will only strengthen the opposition. Educated Russians will in the end throw out this false czar.