Russians' wrath pours into streets nationwide

Demonstrators shout antigovernment slogans and demand the resignation of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, pictured in handbill, in the city on Saturday.

Associated Press

Demonstrators shout antigovernment slogans and demand the resignation of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, pictured in handbill, in the city on Saturday.

KALININGRAD, Russia — Thousands of people participated in antigovernment rallies across Russia on Saturday, including nearly 3,000 residents of this Baltic province who defied police and staged a boisterous, rain-soaked protest calling on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down.

The coordinated demonstrations, which opposition leaders dubbed a "Day of Wrath," occurred in dozens of cities and towns across 11 time zones, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Irkutsk and Vladivostok. Though turnout appeared limited, the string of protests hinted at widespread frustration with Russia's most serious economic downturn in more than a decade.

The unauthorized rally in Kaliningrad took place despite a concerted effort by the Kremlin and local authorities to prevent it — and opposition leaders' decision to cancel for fear of police violence.

Among those who showed up Saturday was Gyorgy Yermolayev, 68, a pensioner who hoisted a Russian flag decorated with paper spiders representing corrupt officials. Police ordered him to put it away but were quickly surrounded by a crowd shouting "Freedom! Freedom!"

About 1,000 people demonstrated in St. Petersburg holding placards saying "Putin's team must resign!"

Police didn't intervene in the St. Petersburg protest, but they barred protesters from holding a rally in downtown Moscow. City police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said 70 people had been detained for taking part in the protest.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Russians' wrath pours into streets nationwide 03/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 11:37pm]

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