Competing mass Putin rallies face off in Moscow
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February 04, 2012
MOSCOW – Tens of thousands took to the streets of Moscow Saturday for rival rallies arguing over the future of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, in a trial of political strength one month ahead of presidential polls.
While protesters from the anti-Putin movement massed for their third rally in less than two months urging the Russian strongman to quit, his supporters also filled a square in western Moscow to bursting point.
Police said 138,000 turned up for the pro-Putin rally in the west of the capital and put the number of protesters at the anti-Putin event at around 36,000. However opposition rally organisers insisted they mobilised over 120,000.
Bundled up in down jackets, fur coats and felt boots, the protesters defied freezing weather of around minus 17 degrees Celsius (1.5 Fahrenheit) as Russia’s political temperature heated up ahead of the March 4 elections.
The rally by the anti-Putin movement — its third since disputed December 4 parliamentary polls — was seen as a crucial test of whether activists can keep their momentum to pose a real challenge to the Russian strongman.