MOSCOW — Protesters gathered here at Triumphant Square on Monday night and quickly declared themselves victorious, despite their small numbers: They had won permission to demonstrate for the third time and they were not as desperate as Egyptians.
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov told about 500 demonstrators rallying in support of freedom of assembly on the square outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall that it took 30 years for Egyptians to lose patience with President Hosni Mubarak. Russians, he said, have had only 12 years of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"Revolutions are not for Russia," said Nemtsov, who spent 15 days in jail after being arrested at a similar demonstration on New Year's Eve. "Our main aim is free elections. We want Putin to go away — peacefully."
The protest was led by 83-year-old Ludmilla Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group. "This is our only way to tell the authorities what we think," Alexeyeva said. Victory, she said, lay in being able to demonstrate legally.
This was the third time the protesters had received a city permit to rally, with other demonstrations held Oct. 31 and Dec. 31 in honor of Article 31 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. A year ago, police arrested Alexeyeva and carted her off to jail when she dared to demonstrate without a permit.