The former Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, has called for cancellation of Sunday's “rigged” elections to Parliament as protests against vote fraud continued in Russia.
“With each passing day more and more Russians refuse to believe that the election was honest,” said Mr. Gorbachev. “The country's leaders must admit there were numerous falsifications and rigging and the results do not reflect the people's will.”
Thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow and other cities to protest what they said was massive rigging of Sunday's election, which gave victory to the ruling United Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
“I think they can only take one decision — annul the results and call a new election,” Mr. Gorbachev (80), told the Interfax news wire on Wednesday. “In my view, disregard for public opinion is discrediting the authorities and destabilising the situation.”
About 600 people were arrested in Moscow on Tuesday as police clashed with demonstrators for the second day running; over 300 protesters were detained on Monday. Protest rallies also took place in St. Petersburg and other cities, where hundreds of people were rounded up.
Mr. Putin's party was declared the winner of Sunday's poll with almost 50 per cent of the votes cast. This is considerably less than four years ago but enough to guarantee it an absolute majority in the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament. Independent monitors, however, said the ruling party's results were inflated by up to 20 per cent through ballot-box stuffing, multiple “carousel” voting and manipulation with final protocols.
To weaken the impact of protests, the Kremlin organised pro-government rallies in Moscow. Thousands of activists of Kremlin youth movements were bussed to the capital to hold alternative demonstrations in support of Mr. Putin and his party. The two groups of demonstrators came dangerously close to clashing with each other on Tuesday as Kremlin loyalists gathered at a square in the city centre where an opposition rally was scheduled to be held. Police shielded pro-Kremlin demonstrators from angry opponents, who shouted “shame” and hurled flares at their opponents.
More protests are being planned for Saturday, with about 7,000 people signing up on social networks for a rally at Revolution Square, a hundred metres away from the Kremlin.