The center of Moscow was well fortified Monday evening, with about 12,000 police, interior ministry troops and riot police on duty, police said. Troop trucks and police vans lined many streets.
“If it was a free election, why have they flooded the entire city with troops?” Udaltsov said to the Pushkin Square crowd.
Now that Putin has been declared the winner, the protest movement will have to work out what it hopes to accomplish, and for many that’s difficult to envision.
“I don’t know what we should do next,” said Dmitry Morgachev, 40, a telecommunications engineer who was at Pushkin Square. “Our country has this bad karma – very bad. What happened here in the 20th century can’t be gotten rid of so easily.”
“I’m afraid of blood, of provocation,” said Kirill Dobrov, 32, a sales manager from a Moscow suburb. “I’m scared to think about the future. But we have to support our movement for honest elections. Even if we’re a minority, they must listen to us.”
He and others argued that Putin’s majority was not genuine – that the whole election campaign was so unfair that the reported results are misleading. In this, they were backed Monday by the observer team sent to Russia by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“There was no real competition, and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt,” said Tonino Picula, one of the leaders of the OSCE mission. “These elections were unfair.”
The campaign beforehand was “skewed” in favor of Putin, said Tiny Kox, head of a delegation from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly. And OSCE observers rated the vote-counting procedures at one-third of the polling places they monitored as “bad or very bad,” said Heidi Tagliani, a co-leader of the OSCE mission.
Researcher Natasha Abbakumova contributed to this story.