May 22, 2013
Thousands protest against Putin after Russia vote
Several thousand protesters took to the streets on Monday to demand an end to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule after voters cut his party's parliamentary majority in an election that was condemned as unfair by European monitors.
Police said they detained 300 people in Moscow, where they confronted a crowd of 3,000 to 5,000 chanting "Revolution!" and "Russia without Putin" in one of the biggest opposition protests in the capital in years.
Police scuffled with some protesters and formed a line to hem them in and prevent them marching towards the Kremlin. Some managed to break away and head towards the seat of power, but at least 30 were seized before they got there.
The Central Election Commission said the prime minister's United Russia party was set to have 238 deputies in the 450-seat State Duma after Sunday's vote, compared with 315 seats in the current lower house.
The result was Putin's worst election setback since he came to power 12 years ago and signalled growing weariness with his domination of Russian politics as he prepares to reclaim the presidency in an election next March.
President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday's election was "fair, honest and democratic," but European monitors said the field was slanted in favour of United Russia and the vote was marred by apparent manipulations.
The United States has "serious concerns" about the conduct of the election, a White House spokesman said.
The observers said there had been "serious indications of ballot box stuffing" in a harsh verdict on the election that suggested United Russia could have suffered an even bigger decline in support if the voting had been completely fair.
They also said the election preparations "were marked by a convergence of the state and the governing party, limited political competition and a lack of fairness."
"The country has never seen such a dirty election," said Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who dismissed the official results as "theft on an especially grand scale."