The organizers of the planned “For Honest Elections” demonstration scheduled for today (February 4) held their breath. They knew the Moscow temperature would be minus 10 Celsius at noon. Could they get a hundred thousand protestors for the demonstration at Bolotnaya Square? If weather had kept Putin protesters away, the government would cheer that the opposition’s back had been broken.
It is now six PM in Moscow on February 4, and the answer is in. According to organizer estimates, no less than one hundred thousand demonstrators showed up carrying white balloons, wearing white ribbons and carrying signs: “Russia without Putin.” Aerial photos confirm the massive numbers of demonstrators at Bolotnaya Square.
The “Russia for Honest Elections” demonstrators adopted the following resolutions: not one vote for Putin, reversal of the parliamentary vote, firing the head of the electoral commission, punishment of those who falsified the Duma election, and the free registration of independent parties and candidates. Demonstrators were called upon to register en masse as election observers for the March 4 presidential election.
State television, which had strayed from the reservation after the December 24 demonstrations, was back under Putin’s control. NTV breathlessly carried live coverage of the “We Have Much to Lose” counter-demonstration organized by the Putin regime at Poklonnoe Gore. Indeed photos show large crowds, carrying pro-Putin signs and threatening to “douse the swamp pests in cold water.” (Bolotnaya Square translates as Swamp Square). Speakers argued that Russia needs to stay the course with a proven leader. Demonstrators were brought in by bus from surrounding cities. Reporters from independent newspapers reported hearing demonstrators discuss how much they had been paid. They arrived and departed according to printed timetables.