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Europe

Thousands turn out for pro-Putin rallies

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-02-18

Thousand of Vladimir Putin’s followers turned out for rallies across Russia on Saturday in a mass display of support amidst growing protests against his bid for a third term as president in the country’s March 4 elections.

AFP - Thousands of supporters of Vladimir Putin attended rallies across Russia on Saturday to back his bid for the presidency, trying to outdo mass nationwide protests staged by his opponents.

Over 20,000 people attended rallies in the Russian Far East and Siberia backing Putin's bid for a historic third Kremlin term in March 4 polls, ahead of a similar rally expected later in his hometown of Saint Petersburg, police said.

Russians are taking to the streets with increasing regularity ahead of the election as the opposition and pro-Putin camp seek to outdo each other with competing rallies.

According to a police count quoted by Russian news agencies, 12,000 people turned out for the biggest rally in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk under the slogan "We Have Something to Protect!"

Some 3,000 people attended a pro-Putin rally in the Pacific port of Vladivostok, 7,000 came for a similar event in the Siberian city of Irkutsk while another 3,000 braved freezing temperatures in the city of Novosibirsk.

The demonstrations come ahead of a giant pre-election rally on February 23 in Moscow called by the Putin campaign under the slogan "We Protect the Country!" that organisers hope will muster 200,000 people.

This is to be followed by a rival action in the capital on February 26 by the opposition, who are counting on tens of thousands to turn out to form a human chain around the capital's inner ring road.

Putin is still widely expected to win the presidential elections, possibly even in the first round, with his four registered opponents failing to provide a significant challenge.

But analysts say the protest movement could give Putin a rough ride going forward as he embarks on a new six-year Kremlin term amid growing expectations of change.
 

Date created : 2012-02-18

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