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Another Mass Protest Expected In Russia This Weekend

Alexei Navalny, a leader of Russia's political opposition, speaks at a meeting to discuss a Dec. 24 opposition rally protesting election results in Moscow.
Mikhail Metzel
Alexei Navalny, a leader of Russia's political opposition, speaks at a meeting to discuss a Dec. 24 opposition rally protesting election results in Moscow.

Tens of thousands are expected on the streets of Moscow tomorrow. As The Guardian reports, 50,000 have said they will show up on "Moscow's Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov," and thousands more will march across the country.

As we've reported, the protests stem from disputed parliamentary elections and come months before a crucial presidential election that will test Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year hold on power.

Reuters reports on the mood on the ground:

"Bringing together liberals, nationalists, anarchists, environmentalists and urban youth, protest organizers have settled on a list of 19 speakers that includes former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, rock singer Yuri Shevchuk and writer Boris Akunin.

"An online vote was held on what slogans to put on 2,000 balloons at the rally. 'You don't represent us!' was the most popular, followed by 'You swindled us!" and "We will not stop!'

Reuters spoke to Navalny, who was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in jail at an earlier, unsanctioned protest.

"I am absolutely sure that up to 1 million people are ready to take part in such rallies ... I see the people's mood," Navalny, told Reuters. "They stole about 1 million votes. And that's only in Moscow. I think that these people are completely dissatisfied with what happened and are ready to defend their rights, including going out on to the streets."

The Financial Times reportsthat over the past few days the Kremlin has turned on its charm in an effort to curb the protests. President Dmitry Medvedev promised "far-reaching political reforms" in a speech, yesterday.

But the Times reports that the opposition is not buying it.

"We have seen a lot of promises before and they haven't been met," Navalny told the Times in response to Medvedev's speech. "Instead they have been aimed at keeping the swindlers and thieves in power."

The Guardian frames the issue a bit differently. It reports that the Kremlin has alternately made overtures and dismissed the protesters:

"Putin has twice compared the protesters' ribbons to condoms and repeatedly accused them of being in the pay of the US state department, while Dmitry Medvedev, the more liberal president, has issued a series of proposals to loosen the election laws.


"In a sign of increasing nervousness, Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin's secretive chief ideologist, gave a rare interview published on Friday, in which he argued that "the system has already changed".

"'People are saying: "We exist, we have meaning, we are the people,"' Surkov told Izvestiya newspaper. 'One cannot arrogantly dismiss their opinions.' Surkov is the architect of Russia's 'managed democracy' and 'power vertical', two terms used to describe the country's soft authoritarian form of governance."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.