Rival Putin crowds rally across Russia
Motorists flying flags sporting portraits of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drive during a car rally to support Putin’s presidential candidacy in Moscow. AFP photoHundreds of Moscow drivers flew white balloons and ribbons circled the Kremlin yesterday in noisy protest against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s likely return as president in March 4 polls, a day after tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Russia in support of Putin.
The second such auto rally in three weeks was due to be picked up in other cities as the opposition sought to keep up momentum after launching the biggest wave of anti-Putin rallies in his 12-year rule in December. “The closer we manage to get to the Kremlin, the more effective this event will be,” the protest movement’s League of Voters said in a statement. Nearly 3,500 people had signed up for the event on its Facebook page by the time the afternoon event started in Moscow under a bright winter sky.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Russia in support of Putin on Feb. 18. The rallies began in the Pacific coast port of Vladivostok and culminated with a late-night demonstration on wheels in Moscow, where motorists took to the streets with slogans such as “Putin rules” on their cars. Authorities said crowds of thousands gathered in many cities, and as many as 60,000 in St. Petersburg.