An angry crowd of more than 100,000 people surged through Moscow last Saturday demanding fair elections.
It was the third such protest against prime minister Vladimir Putin’s regime since the parliamentary elections on 4 December last year.
Demonstrators accuse the government of widespread fraud and vote rigging in the election.
The anger was such that even temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius did not deter the protesters. People seemed just as determined as when they first demonstrated on 10 December.
The government’s response seems to have increased the anger. It made vague verbal concessions, but its real response is thinly disguised contempt.
It accuses the opposition of being in the pay of the US. It has scheduled university exams and compulsory school events to clash with protests, and has pressured government employees into attending a pro‑government rally on the same day.
Protesters wear a white ribbon to symbolise their new movement. Putin said he thought they were condoms, which has prompted many defiant jokes on people’s home made placards.
Putin is confident that he will win the presidential election in March. So he feels little need to listen to people’s demands—beyond promising to install video cameras in polling stations, and hinting that regional governors may be elected again in the future.
For now the demonstrations have won more space to organise a genuine opposition.
Already the anger is spreading from the fraudulent elections, to the rampant corruption at all levels of society, the blatant inequality which can be so clearly seen on the streets of Moscow and the privatisation of university education.
Two months ago people merely grumbled about these issues but accepted them as being inevitable. Now there is a real possibility that they will continue this movement and win real change in Russia.