Russian blogger takes on Putin at mass rally

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Charismatic Russian blogger and protest leader Alexei Navalny vowed Saturday to bring a million people out on the streets in future protests to ensure that Vladimir Putin is ousted next year.

In his biggest attack yet on Putin's grip on power, Navanly told the latest rally attended by tens of thousands in Moscow that the protest movement had the power to determine the future of Russia.

"I see enough people here to take the White House right now," he said, referring to the seat of the Russian government. "But we are peaceful people and we will not do that -- for the moment.

"We know what we will do. We will go out onto the street until they give back what is ours. Next time, we will bring one million people onto the streets of Moscow," said Navalny, a laywer by profession.

He emerged as a figurehead of the Russian protest movement through writings that are vehemently critical of Putin and also his publication of forensically-detailed investigations into corruption at state companies.

Navalny did not say when the next demonstration would be held, but the opposition has vowed to keep up protests until the results of December 4 parliamentary elections are annulled.

He asked the crowd: "You want to see millions protesting in Russia? Yes or no?" They replied with a resounding "Yes!"

The blogger added: "We do not want to scare anyone. But I promise you that next year the leaders will change and power will belong to those to whom it should belong. Power will belong to the people."

"We want to respect the authorities. But those who are there now are not there because they have support but because they have control of television and a few courts. They do not have support, sources of authority."

"Our patience will not last forever," he warned.

"I read a small book -- it's called the constitution of Russia," he said. "And there it's written that the only source of power is the people of the Russian Federation."

His address came just days after he was released from prison upon serving a 15-day jail term over his participation in a protest shortly after the elections.

After serving his brief term, Navalny had been given a hero's welcome by supporters and promptly declared that he had been "jailed in one country and freed in another".

In an interview after his speech to small private television station Dozhd (Rain), the only Russian channel to cover the protests live, Navalny said the meeting had been the "biggest and best of my life".

He dismissed concerns that nationalist demonstrators -- who were prominent at the protest, clutching the black-yellow-white tricolour that was once the banner of the Russian empire -- could hijack the liberal cause.

"All of them (the protestors) have had their votes stolen," he said.

Navalny had alienated some of his liberal supporters earlier this year by attending the racist-tinged and anti-immigrant Russian March in Moscow, a move he said at the time was aimed at "educating" radical youth.

The blogger has risen to prominence amid a rapid boom in Internet use by Russians in recent years and his blogging site on Live Journal ( is one of the most visited websites in Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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