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Tens of thousands expected in new protests in Moscow

Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

Opposition protests in Russia over the alleged rigging of 4 December elections are expected to attract tens of thousands on Saturday. A statement by an advisory Kremlin rights panel, which says the new parliament had been discredited by the accusations of fraud and new elections should be called, has given a welcome boost to the demonstrators. 

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Protests are due to take place in the eastern city of Vladivostok and elsewhere in Siberia, but the biggest crowd is expected in the Russian capital, Moscow. Some 50,000 people have said on Facebook they will attend the protest.

Earlier this week, President Dmitry Medvedev announced a series of measures aimed at appeasing the protestors, including resuming elections for regional governors, but the changes fell far short of their demands for a re-run of the legislative polls.

Angered by claims of massive violations in the polls that handed a reduced majority to strongman Vladimir Putin's United Russia, tens of thousands of people already took to the streets across Russia on 10 December.

Those protests were the biggest in Russia since the chaotic 1990s and the first sign of a growing challenge to Putin's 12-year domination of the country.

However the mass protests have been sanctioned by the authorities, in a major turnaround by the police who arrested hundreds of people who took part in demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the elections.

Defying the protests, the newly elected lower house of parliament, the State Duma, held its first session on Wednesday.

The ruling United Russia party won less than half the vote in the elections and lost 77 seats as fatigue set in with the 12-year rule of Putin, who is planning to win his old Kremlin job back in March polls and could stay in power until 2024.

But the opposition says the party's performance would have been even worse in free elections.

 

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