Late on Monday several thousand people took to the streets in central Moscow to protest against alleged fraud in Sunday’s parliamentary elections (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
The crowd shouted “Down with Putin”.
According to Olga Shorina, a spokeswoman for the Solidarnost (Solidarity) activist group that organised the protest, about 250 people were held by police on Tuesday morning and face being held for up to 15 days.
While Police said 2,000 people showed up at the Moscow rally, Ms Shorina said up to 10,000 attended the rally and 1,500-2,000 later marched towards the offices of the Central Election Commission.
Monday night’s protest was the largest in many years in Russia, and an encouragement for the country’s opposition, which usually struggles to mobilise protesters.
About 100 opposition protesters were also detained in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city, after they tried holding an unsanctioned rally on Monday for the second day in a row, police said.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said although the election had in general been “well organised”, the polls were slanted in favour of United Russia and marred by “frequent procedural violations” including the stuffing of ballot boxes.
“The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party, the election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels,” said Petros Efthymiou.
Another observer, Heidi Tagliavini, said the elections had also suffered from the absence of several opposition parties which were barred from participating.
“To me, this election was like a game in which only some players are allowed to compete,” she said.
‘Worst setback ever’
United Russia, Vladimir Putin’s party, won the elections but with just under 50 per cent, a sharp drop in its support compared to the 64 per cent it won in 2007. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
United Russia obtained 238 seats in the 450-seat Duma.
The vote is being seen as a popularity test for Mr Putin, who announced that he will run for the presidential election next March.
This was Mr Putin worst setback ever at the ballot box.
The Communist Party won 92 seats and will be the biggest opposition, followed by A Just Russia with 64 seats and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) which won 56 seats.
Turnout was just over 60 percent.
Opposition parties have also complained of violations.
According to the RIA news agency the Communist Party said it was preparing to challenge the “absolutely illegitimate” result in court.
Golos, the only independent monitoring group in the country, said it has logged 5,300 complaints alleging violations.
President Dmitry Medvedev headed United Russia party list and said he was looking forward to working with the new parliament.
“A tragedy has not taken place,” he said.
“On the contrary, in my view, everything is quite decent and respectable.
“I for one am glad that we shall have a merrier parliament because we understand that truth can emerge only from a debate.”