Hundreds rally against Putin's planned Kremlin bid

AFP , Sunday 25 Sep 2011

Opposition supporters in Moscow protest Vladimir Putin's decision to run - once again - for the presidency

Some 300 Russian opposition supporters rallied on Sunday in central Moscow to voice anger over Vladimir Putin's decision to return to the Kremlin next year following a previous eight-year stint as president from 2000 to 2008.

The United Civil Front group associated with former chess champion Garry Kasparov and other sidelined opposition leaders held up banners reading "Putin Must Go!" and "Your Elections are a Farce!" while police looked on.

Held within walking distance of the Kremlin, the rally dispersed peacefully after being sanctioned by city authorities in advance of Saturday's surprise announcement about Putin.

"I came to protest the fact that Putin and Medvedev are just switching positions instead of letting the people decide," said Antonina Ilyinichna, 73, who wore the red beret associated with the Communist Party.

Artyom Adiyev, 22, said he came out to show the authorities "that there was an opposition and that the world does not agree" with the job swap.

"They have confiscated power," he said. "The people are no longer choosing their leaders."

Putin, 58, who served as prime minister under President Dmitry Medvedev, recently announced plans to stand in March presidential elections that he is almost certain of winning due to the fractured nature of Russia's opposition.

The United Civil Front holds periodic protests in Moscow and other cities that sometimes lead to the arrest of its members, but which rarely generate large crowds. Tellingly, none of the opposition's main leaders showed up at Sunday's protest.

Throughout the past decade, Putin has remained Russia's most popular figure. He is currently eligible to remain in power until 2024.

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