The first major protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin in three months took place on Saturday in Moscow. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters have marched through the capital to say that December’s parliamentary elections were fraudulent and dispute Mr Putin’s re-election in March.
Demonstrators shouted “Russia without Putin” and “free our political prisoners”.
Demonstrators also demanded the release of the three jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot.
After staging an anti-Putin protest in Moscow cathedral last February, the band’s members were convicted of hooliganism in August and jailed for two years.
The US, UK and EU criticised the sentenced, saying it was being “disproportionate”.
To show their support to the Pussy Riot, some activists carried balloons with balaclava masks painted on, as the band members wear the headgear while performing.
Prominent opponent Alexei Navalny urged protesters to keep up the pressure on the authorities.
He told a cheering crowd : “We must come to rallies to win freedom for ourselves and our children, to defend our human dignity”.
According to Boris Nemtsov, another opposition leader, many people disagreed with the way Mr Putin and his party are running the country.
“We came to say a definite ‘No’ to the crooks and thieves. We came to do everything to stop repression. We came to do everything to have new, fair elections,” he said.
Since he became his third term as president earlier this year, Mr Putin has adopted a tougher line against the opposition.
In June he approved legislation increasing fines for breaking laws governing protest.
Saturday’s demonstration was approved by the authorities and the route was lined by thousands of police.
But anyone participating in an unsanctioned rally or damaging property during a sanctioned rally risks a fine of about $10,000.