Russia 'Day of Anger' Protests Fizzle OutWorld | March 20, 2010, Saturday // 18:58| views
A protestor in the Russian city of Vladivostok engages with a policeman at a rally to express opposition to the government's policies. Photo by BGNES
Russia's opposition declared Saturday to be a "Day of Anger", calling on citizens across the country to protest against the government of PM Vladimir Putin.
Kremlin critics had declared a national day of protest, to mobilize those angry at the government's handling of the worst economic slump in a decade, after recent local elections had showed a drop in support for the ruling party.
The rallies began in the eastern city of Vladivostok, where some 1 500 protestors took to the streets.
Leaders of a coalition of opposition groups read out a list of demands that included the dismissal of Putin's government and the return of direct elections for governors, scrapped in 2004.
Organizers complained that the authorities had made efforts to keep protestors away, including issuing reports to local media that the protest had been banned, and seizing leaflets advertising the rallies.
In the Russian capital, Mosocw, police outnumbered the 100 activists who took to the streets for an unsanctioned demonstration. They detained a few dozen protestors and blocked the street to prevent demonstrators from marching.
"This country is one of the richest in the world, and people here live in poverty," said Nikolai Gritsayev, 41, a government worker in Kaliningrad who was one of several hundred people to turn out in the city.
"People have been left without the means to live, and they blame the government," said Alexander Krinitsky, one of the protest leaders. "We have no choice but to take to the streets."
Despite the relatively small turn-out on Saturday, protests in recent months have demonstrated that opposition to Putin's United Russia party has grown since the onset of the economic crisis, which brought a sudden end to 10 years of growth and drove unemployment above 9%.
Last year, gross domestic product fell by about 8%, Russia's worst figures since 1994.
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