MOSCOW: Russian demonstrators carried a black coffin bearing the word ‘democracy’ through the city of Vladivostok today protesting against Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency for another six years.
The opposition also planned a “march of the million” in Moscow and staged smaller rallies in other cities the day before a lavish inauguration ceremony inside the Kremlin.
Many Russians are angry that Putin is extending his already 12-year domination of Russia and fear he will stifle political and economic reform.
Witnesses said about 100 protesters rallied in a central square in the Pacific port of Vladivostok and unfurled a banner declaring “Putin is not our president”.
Six people were detained after the rally in Vladivostok, opposition supporters told reporters. Police also detained 10 protesters in the Urals city of Kurgan and several were led away by police in the Western Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russian media said.
Enthusiasm for the protests could, however, be dented by the fact that the opposition called the protests on a national holiday when many people like to leave Moscow and head for the countryside.
In response to the opposition’s plans, pro-Putin supporters have announced their own rally, saying they expect 50,000 people to gather at a park in southeast Moscow.
Users of social networking sites reported attempts by the authorities in towns outside Moscow to prevent opposition supporters coming to the capital. They said some activists were detained.
Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev has pushed only limited political reforms following the protests, which at their height attracted tens of thousands of people in Moscow and St Petersburg but did not spread outside big cities.