Rally Against Putin
Up to 50,000 people have turned out in Moscow for a protest against disputed polls that have sparked a rare national show of defiance against Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule.
Hundreds of security trucks blocked off central squares while helicopters patrolled the skies as Moscow authorities deployed more than 50,000 riot police and troops on the biggest day of protest to hit Russia since the turbulent 1990s.
Protesters braved a whipping snow storm on Saturday to snake their way through tight police cordons and across the Moscow River to a secluded square not far from the Kremlin, assigned by the authorities for the "For Fair Elections" protest.
"The current regime does not know how to behave with dignity," former cabinet member turned Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov said as the crowd gathered for the biggest Moscow opposition rally of the Putin era.
Hundreds called on the authorities to "annul the election results" in the Pacific port of Vladivostok while rallies under the slogan of "Russia without Putin" spread across the Ural and Volga regions.
These protests underscore the backlash against Putin's reign and his return to the philosophy of the Soviet Union and KGB control:
The demonstrations were the biggest to hit Moscow in more than a decade and rang what some saw as the first warning bell for ex-foreign agent Putin and his secretive inner circle of security chiefs.
Putin's party - bruised by corruption allegations and comparisons to the Soviet-era Communist Party - lost its tight grip on parliament while keeping a slim majority that its foes claim was exaggerated by a corrupt vote count.
Their complaints were supported by a flood of video footage shot by ordinary Russians and posted on the internet appearing to show ballot stuffing and other widespread manipulation.
The poll was seen as a litmus test of Putin's decision to return to the Kremlin in the March presidential ballot and appeared to expose a chink in his armour after more than a decade of dominant rule.
Russian protests: live (this link provides continuous updates)
"Putin Out" Russian protesters chant
Tens of thousands of Russians turned out in central Moscow and across the country Saturday to protest what they believe were rigged parliamentary elections.
United Russia, the party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, suffered big losses in the election, but retained its parliamentary majority. On Saturday, protesters chanted "Putin out," according to a correspondent from state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
The protesters are demanding an annulment of the December 4 election results and a new vote.
Election officials on Friday released the official results: 238 seats for United Russia; 92 seats for the Communists; 64 seats for Fair Russia; and 56 seats for the Liberal Democrats. Protesters say that these results are fraudulent.
Russians protest against Putin, elections
"This is history in the making for Russia. The people are coming out to demand justice for the first time in two decades, justice in the elections," a 41-year-old employee in the financial services sector, who gave his name only as Anton, said at Revolution Square.
"I want new elections, not a revolution," said Ernst Kryavitsky, 75, a retired electrician dressed in a long brown coat and hat against the falling snow who was protesting even though he did not expect Putin to be ousted.
"Putin will not leave power, and there won't be any major changes in the country but the authorities need to know how angry we are," he said.
Around Bolotnaya Square policeman stood every 50 meters (yards) with dogs. Banners declared: "Putin Kaput" and "Big brother is watching you" with a picture of Putin.
Many Russians felt disenfranchised when he and Medvedev announced plans to swap jobs after next year's presidential election and said they had taken the decision years ago.
Putin may hope to show his government will tolerate peaceful protests within the limits it sets - by allowing certain rallied to take place but preventing others - but will crack down on anyone who ventures outside those boundaries.
This story represents an interesting development indeed, but the prophetic implications are unclear.
It seems likely that one of two scenarios will develop: 1) these protests will diminish over time, and become a non-event or, 2) the protests will continue and grow in numbers - in this scenario, Putin may be forced to crack down and put a stop to these protests through military means.
Either way, it is very difficult to see a scenario in which Putin is forced to step down or repeat the election process. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the protesters will succeed in their efforts.
This situation is worth watching closely - simply because it involves Russia, and Russia is such a key player in the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39.