Moscow set for new opposition rally

AFP , Sunday 8 Jan 2012

Russians frustrated with both Vladimir Putin and the nascent opposition movement's inability to institute change are to stage a small protest in central Moscow on Sunday

The unusual counter-demonstration reflects deep fissures among groups opposed to Vladimir Putin's 12-year domination of Russia and his expected return to the Kremlin in March presidential polls.

Organisers said the 2:00 pm (1000 GMT) rally on Bolotnaya Square -- scene of a historic protest against the outcome of a disputed December 4 parliamentary vote -- was sanctioned by the city and expected to draw around 300 people.

"We have had enough of both this leadership and this opposition in equal measure," organisers said in a statement posted on the mitingvmoskve.ru website.

Moscow last month was rocked by the biggest rallies since the turbulent 1990s when tens of thousands turned out against elections in which Putin's ruling party retained a narrow majority amid allegations of fraud.

A third such mass event has been scheduled for February 4 -- exactly a month before a presidential vote in which Putin hopes to win a third term after serving as head of state from 2000 to 2008.

Putin agreed to hand his current premiership post to President Dmitry Medvedev after the elections in a role swap that has sparked deep resentment among voters who feel cheated by the private deal.

The resulting drop in Putin's support is not expected to seriously hurt his election chances despite the sudden possibility that he will have to face a humbling run-off vote.

But it means that Putin may end up returning to the presidency with his approval ratings at an all-time low and his authority challenged for the first time.

Sunday's rally organisers said the current protest movement was distracted by leadership squabbles far removed from its original determination to obtain a fair vote.

"Those heading these rallies are clearly more interested in their own leadership than our problems," the group's unsigned statement said.

Short link: