Russians in New York rally against Putin

AFP , Sunday 11 Dec 2011

Russians protesting in NY what they see as highly fraudulent elections that continues to keep Putin in power look to the example of the Arab Spring, which they say is a positive for Russia

An elderly demonstrator holds a poster showing an edited photo of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and signed "2050. No" during a mass rally to protest against alleged vote rigging in Russia's parliamentary elections in Moscow, Russia. ( Photo: AP)

Russians living in New York demonstrate in support of thousands of people protesting in their homeland against strongman Vladimir Putin and what they say were stolen parliamentary elections.

About 200 people gathered on Saturday outside the Russian consulate in Manhattan to demand a re-run of the election and the departure of Putin, who has ruled Russian politics for 12 years.

"Putin shame!" they chanted and "Russia without Putin!"

The New York protest was a small mirror of the huge demonstration in Moscow, where tens of thousands turned out against the contested election in which Putin's United Russia party allegedly committed large-scale fraud to win a narrow victory.

But considering that anti-Putin protests among New York's large Russian immigrant community rarely involve more than a dozen people, participants said the relatively large turnout was significant.

Organisers said expatriates also protested in European cities including London, as well as in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Vancouver and dozens of other cities.

"This marks a new stage because these people coming out on the streets in Russia and here in New York are typically apolitical," said Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of the imprisoned former businessman and famed Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

"This idea is spreading. It's not the idea of trying to overturn the government. It's the idea of holding government accountable," Khodorkovsky told AFP outside the consulate.

He said he had been telephoned by his father, who was convicted on tax evasion and fraud charges, earlier Saturday from prison. Told of the scale of the street protests in Russia, "he was really impressed. He was really glad to hear that," Pavel Khodorkovsky said.

Another protester, Ellen Fridliand, who works in public relations and is active with Russian opposition groups, said Russians were looking at the example of the Arab Spring, in which longtime authoritarian regimes were overturned this year.

"We think all the revolutions in Muslim countries and North Africa are very positive for Russia," she said.

Putin ruled as president for eight years before taking up his current role as prime minister. He has announced his candidacy for next year's presidential elections.

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