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Tens of thousands gathered in Moscow to demand free elections
Framed by the authorities, several tens of thousands of people gathered in Moscow to request free elections on August 10th. Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Neither the rain, nor the many departing holidays of August, nor especially the rebellion of the authorities have been right of the protest against the power that has shaken Moscow for almost of one month. On Saturday, August 10, a new demonstration "for free elections" brought tens of thousands of people together in the center of the Russian capital.

According to the count of the NGO "White Counter", known for its seriousness, there were even 49,900 people who were present on Sakharov Avenue. . This counting was all the easier as the protest was allowed and the protesters had to line up through porticos. The police, meanwhile, have registered 20,000 demonstrators, the same figure as at the July 20 rally, while Sakharov Avenue was much less crowded.

The center of Moscow had again been turned into an entrenched camp, with cords of anti-pack forces positioned in each street to prevent rallying participants from dispersing into the city. In the end, small groups actually began to march past chanting slogans hostile to power, leading to first arrests.

Against all odds, this gathering is therefore the most important since the beginning of the movement. The mobilization also far outweighs what was observed a year ago at rallies against pension reform, and is now comparable with the 2011-2012 move against legislative fraud and the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin. Other rallies were also taking place in the province, where dozens of arrests took place.

Tens of thousands gathered in Moscow to demand free elections
Protesters demand the authorization of opposition candidates. MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS

Rejection of opposition candidates

This protest movement began after the rejection of sixty independent candidates for the local elections on 8 September for dubious prizes. These candidates, from the liberated camp or allied with the opponent Alexei Navalny, seemed able to put in difficulty the representatives of the power. Throughout Russia, hundreds of opposition candidates have been blocked in the same way, accused of falsification or refused for formal defects.

Read also The opposition will not be able to stand in the local elections in Moscow

Despite the very local character of the September polls, this ban has shocked many Russians, who see it as a democrat and a stiffening of power in the face of any attempt to challenge its monopoly .

Many personalities who have been silent up to now, especially in the world of music, have in recent days been calling on the movement, contributing to its popularity. On the other hand, the Moscow City Hall was organizing a free music festival this Saturday, hoping, as last week, to attract the youngest group of eventual protesters. Nearly half of the artists announced have however resisted, either by explicitly calling for demonstrations or by reporting problems. Â "Ã Â © ethical".

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Moscow prepares for new face-to-face between opposition and police

Movement reduction and intimidation

After hesitating in the face of this crisis, the authorities chose the strong way about two weeks ago. In addition to the police violence observed every Saturday and the massive arrests of peaceful protesters, most of whom are quickly released, it is in the backseat of the courts that the reality is over. pressure of the movement, and the intimidation of those who would be tempted to join him.

All the banned candidates, transformed into de facto leaders of the protest, are thus imprisoned, sentenced to administrative penalties of up to thirty days of detention for participation or call to banned demonstrations. The latest female candidate for freedom, Lioubov Sobol, who has been on a hunger strike since July 13, was arrested in the morning of Saturday.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Lioubov Sobol, the uncompromising lawyer of the Russian opposition

Alexeï Navalny, the leader of the opposition who is also in prison for thirty days, his "Anti-Corruption Fund", whose videos unveiling the corruption of Russian elites accumulate tens of millions of views on YouTube, is in the sights of justice, which has already frozen the accounts of the organization. The investigation into "money laundering" came after a new investigation by the Fund into the number two Moscow City Hall, accused of having got hold of real estate worth € 94 million.

Criminal investigation for "massive disturbances of public order"

Above all, the opening of a criminal investigation into "massive disturbances of public order" has resulted in arrests of simple protesters in recent days and dozens of searches. Thirteen people, who seem to have been randomly selected, are currently detained for this reason and face up to 15 years in prison. Among them, a man who had been filmed on August 3 pretending to raise the sight of an anti-pack police officer. For the rest, the judges do not present any proof of the participation of the arrested persons to any violent actions. This week, the prosecution also asked for the removal of parental rights from a couple who had demonstrated with their child.

"Authorities know how to be flexible as long as the demands of civil society do not concern political subjects", Wrote this week Alexander Baunov from the Carnegie Center in Moscow:

"But for Vladimir Putin, the elections have almost become issues of national security. (â € |) It is the government itself that has chosen climbing. He chose to respond with violence to peaceful protests, as if a revolution threatened. His message is: â € œDo you want the revolution? We are ready, let's fight! Â € AT"

This strategy, however, shows its limits, as evidenced by the massive mobilization of this August 10th. From very localized, the stake has become national, and the Sakharov Avenue protesters no longer require only the right to vote for the candidate of their choice, but also the freedom to vote. of the "Political prisoners" and the departure of Vladimir Putin, in power for twenty years.

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