MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti)
- Russians Rally as Putin Hints Reforms, Warns of Regime Change
- 8,000 Protesters, 15,000 Putin Supporters at Rallies - Police
- Russia Protest Leaders Urge ‘Not One Vote for Putin’
- First Protest Rallies Held in Far East, Siberia
- Moscow Activists Brave Frost to Raise Heat Ahead of Protest
An opposition rally in Moscow gathered 33,000 participants, while a pro-government event elsewhere in the city was attended by 150,000, city police said at 2 p.m. Saturday.
However, organizers of the anti-Putin rally say over a 160,000 attended. Participants gathered at Kaluzhskaya Ploshchad for a 1.5-kilometer march to Bolotnaya Ploshchad to protest alleged electoral violations and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s expected return to presidency.
Live video feed from Bolotnaya Ploshchad indicated attendance could have been considerably higher than police estimates, which were considerably lower than those of organizers and independent observers during two previous opposition rallies in December.
Among the crowd are presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov and former finance minister and Putin’s longtime friend Alexei Kudrin. Both said earlier they do not plan to speak at the rally.
A rally in support of Putin is taking place on Poklonnaya Gora. Numerous media and blog reports said many of its participants were state employees who were forced to attend, though authorities denied all these allegations.
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.