02/29/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Organisers of anti-Putin demonstration threaten to set up tent camp under Kremlin walls

by Nina Achmatova
City authorities refuse to authorise protest in Lubyanka Square on 5 March. Activists say they are ready to camp out in Red Square, as Ukrainians did in Kiev's Maidan Square.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Moscow's Red Square could become the home of a tent city as protesters prepare to gather to demand "fair elections", following a script already played out in Kiev's Maidan (Independence) Square in 2004, scene of Ukraine's Orange Revolution. The Kremlin's worst nightmare could thus come true on 5 March, the day after the upcoming presidential election that should crown Vladimir Putin president of the Russian federation for a third time.

After being denied the right to use the symbolic Lubyanka and Manezh (Manège) Squares, a stone throw from Red Square and near the headquarters of the Central Electoral Commission, Russia's opposition vowed not to give up and plans to put pressure on the authorities on the last day of talks to organise the event.

Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front, said that Moscow City authorities suggested holding the demonstration in Bolotnaya Square, where two other rallies have already taken place. However, the site has less symbolic value than the aforementioned squares.

"They told us that the two squares, Lubyanka and Manezh, would be occupied that day, but they did not say by whom," Udaltsov said. "People have a right to demonstrate in a place that is as close as possible to Kremlin or the Central Electoral Commission's building on the day when the leaders who will lead their country for six years are chosen," he said.

Rally organisers launched a survey on Facebook to see what Russians think about the matter. "What will you do if the City authorises only a rally in Bolotnaya Square?" is the question posted on Facebook and Vkontate (Facebook in Cyrillic alphabet).  Two possible answers are possible: "I'll go to Lubyanka anyway" or "I'll go to Bolotnaya". Results for the poll will be taken into consideration when deciding future steps, Udaltsov said.

On other social networks, some people have proposed to gather peacefully in Lubyanka Square. "You don't ask for freedom, you take it," others wrote on Facebook. Some plan instead to set up camp right under the Kremlin walls.

RosAgit, a movement that backs blogger Alexei Navalny, plans to hand out tents fit for camping. One of the organisers, Vadim Korovin, told gazeta.ru, that his group would start handing out tents and white ribbons in Pushkin Square, white being the colour of protest, thus challenging for the first time in 12 years Putin's hold on power.

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