Violent Demonstration on Putin's Inauguration Eve
While the world was watching the significant French elections yesterday, Moscovites took to the streets, perhaps as many as 50 Thousand protesting the Monday inauguration of Vladimer Putin. Unlike the election protests last fall where as many as a quarter of a million demonstrated peacefully, Sunday in Bolotnaya Square looked like something out of the Middle Ages with well-shielded and helmeted battle legions it tight formation pushed a protective fence against the demonstrators. As gas filled the air, the defiant crowd threw rocks, flares once known as Molotov cocktails at the police lines inches away. The angry crowd then picked up parts of the broken metal fence and speared the police shouting "fascists" and demanding "Russia without Putin!" Thousands cheered each time some daring demonstrator managed to rip off a police helmut--holding it up and then throwing it around with his body armor like a winning trophy. Police helpless without their clubs and protective equipment were then vulnerable to the attacking crowd which joined in beating the helpless police who then, all bloodied crawled back to their lines. Portable toilets were tipped over forming a barricade. Seconds after opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov started to speak, police shoved them off the stage and carted them off. Alexei Navalny, expected to speak next but was arrested as he stood by. Much to the surprise Putin and the world, anger has grown since he won the March presidential election. Many came with children, expecting a peaceful protest as were the ones last fall and before the March election. Putin fearing the crowd would cross the bridge and move onto the Kremlin grounds had police cordon off the rally area and the road with several hundred riot police. One woman, a school teacher blamed Putin for the conflict between truncheon-wielding police and masked stone-throwing protestors. "This was a sanctioned rally, but Putin is a coward. Look at these police. This is just a sign of his paranoia." We'll be watching if today's inauguration ceremony sparks a resumption in the violence.