02/27/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Moscow human chain against Putin. Assassination attempt foiled

Nina Achmatova
Opposition peaceful protest for honest elections and end of Putin’s reign. A week before the March 4 presidential widespread reports of foiled assassination attempt on the Prime Minister.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Thousands of people, despite the snow, joined forces in a human chain yesterday in Moscow to ask again for "honest elections" and the departure of Vladimir Putin, just a week ahead of a presidential vote that should bring him back to the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the climate is tense, after the state television announcement of a plot to kill the prime minister, thwarted by the Secret Service.

Even the skeptics were proved wrong about the success of yesterday's opposition event and the "White Circle", managed to circle the entire city center under the sign of the color white, symbol of the new anti-government protest .

Families, young people and pensioners, hand in hand joined the ring, leaving only crossings free to allow the movement of cars. The police had warned, in fact, that it would intervene if the flash mob endangered public order.

"It 'a new kind of protest - said one of the leaders of the movement" for free elections ", the former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov - we have never had such a thing either in Moscow or in Russia. It is an initiative of solidarity, to show that its participants are willing to work together at the same time and fight for justice despite their differences". The protesters received the solidarity of motorists who drove along the ring for at least an hour beeping horns and waving white handkerchiefs.

On the eve of the "White Circle", the opposition had warned that at least 34 thousand people were needed to close around the circle. According to police, 11 thousand people attended the event, while organizers speak of at least 40 thousand.

It was the last stand by the new opposition movement, before the March 4 presidential election. The climate in the country, however, is growing increasingly tense even beyond public protests. Proof of this is the news released by the Russian Channel One of the foiled attack against Putin by a group of Islamic terrorists in the Caucasus, that was to have taken place after the vote in March. So far, there has been no official confirmation, but it is not the first time for such reports on the eve of sensitive votes. It had already happened in 2008 and 2000.

Either way, currently Putin does not seem to need gimmicks to gain support. Despite the unusual public protests, which for the first time in 12 years, have questioned the authority of Putin, according to recent polls, the former KGB agent will easily win his third presidential term in the first round, by around 63%. The opposition is confident that this is the umpteenth rigged vote and promises a flurry of protests after the popular consultation. "There will be demonstrations on March 5 and 10 and they will go on until we get free elections, free press and independent courts," said one of the leaders of Solidarnost, Ilya Yashin.

Last week, a maxi-election rally organized by Putin campaign organizers, gathered more than 100 thousand people in support of the President and against any attempt to destabilize Russia. Putin himself spoke at the rally, predicting his impending victory. The event, however, was marred by widespread video testimonies of people who told of being paid to support the Prime Minister.

Many young pro-putin supporters also took to the streets yesterday, during the human chain in Moscow, with placards and slogans hailing the new president, but without any real moments of tension. The protest was inspired by the historical human chain that the three Baltic Republics, organized in 1989 to demand independence from the Soviet Union. From there they reached their goal two years later, triggering the collapse of the USSR itself. "It could be the last peaceful demonstration - said the writer Boris Akunin, member of the League of Voters, which will monitor the vote of March 4 - nobody knows what will happen on March 5." The day after, when partial results will already be clear, the opposition has already invoked a new protest for which they have yet to receive the permission of authorities.

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