Around 10,000 people attended a rally on Moscow’s Novy Arbat Street on March 10, demonstrating their opposition to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President-elect.
This weekend’s rally was smaller than many of the protests seen in Moscow recently. Rally organizers put attendance at around 25,000, but police estimates said the crowd was closer to 10,000 in size. RIA Novosti, who use special software to estimate crowd sizes, put the size at 9,100 with a margin of error of 15%, which indicates that the police estimate is the more accurate.
Although a few arrests were made – including Left Front leader Sergei Uldatsov – they were not of the scale seen at the previous weekend’s rally, where more than 500 were arrested.
A number of prominent opposition movement leaders addressed the rally, including Vladimir Ryzhkov, Garry Kasparov and Sergei Uldatsov. Notably, though, senior members of Russian opposition parties and the four defeated opposition candidates stayed away.
What next for Russia’s opposition movement?
It seems likely to be the last major protest that Moscow will see for a while.
Attendance has been gradually decreasing through the year and, without the focus of an upcoming election, it is unclear what direction Russia’s nebulous and politically disparate opposition movement will take over the coming months.
Some, disheartened by the apparent failure of the current methods of holding legally approved rallies, seem to be arguing for more direct action. Key proponents of this way forward include Sergei Uldatsov, leader of the Left Front movement, who was arrested at Saturday’s rally and at the previous rally. He seems to be supported by Alexei Navalny, who was arrested at last week’s rally and has recently called for a campaign of “civil disobedience”.
Many others, though, feel that opposition in Russia needs to move away from being in simple opposition and towards offering a genuine alternative to the current government, view expressed by Dmitry Gudkov, a member of the A Just Russia party who has been heavily involved in organizing a number of protests. In his blog, he wrote (RUS): “The next demonstration must not be ‘against’ but ‘for’. We need to move away from the format of ‘five minutes of hate’ and announce a plan of action, answer the question ‘What next?’ and demand the authorities conduct reforms.”