Hundreds rally against Putin's Kremlin return
Some 300 Russian opposition supporters rallied Sunday in central Moscow to voice anger at Vladimir Putin's decision to return to the Kremlin next year after a 2000-2008 spell as president.
The United Civil Front group of former chess champion Garry Kasparov and other sidelined opposition leaders held up banners reading "Putin Must Go!" and "Your Elections are a Farce!" while the police looked on.
Held within walking distance of the Kremlin, the rally broke up peacefully after being sanctioned by city authorities in advance of the shock announcement Saturday.
"I came to protest the fact that Putin and Medvedev are just switching positions instead of letting the people decide," said Antonina Ilyinichna, 73, who was wearing a red beret of the Communist Party.
Artyom Adiyev, 22, said he came out to show the authorities "that there was an opposition and that the world does not agree" with the job swap.
"They have confiscated power and the people are no longer choosing their leaders," he said.
Putin, 58, who served as prime minister under President Dmitry Medvedev, announced plans to stand in March presidential elections that he is almost certain of winning due to the fractured nature of Russia's opposition.
The United Civil Front holds periodic protests in Moscow and other cities that sometimes lead to its members' arrest, but which rarely generate large crowds. Tellingly, none of the opposition's main leaders showed up at the protest.
Putin has remained Russia's most popular figure throughout the past decade and is now eligible to remain in power until 2024.
© 2011 AFP