The Kremlin ordered troops into Moscow after thousands of demonstrators protested on Monday what they claimed was a rigged election to Parliament.

Columns of trucks and armoured personnel carriers carrying Interior Ministry troops rolled into the Russian capital from several directions on Tuesday, the independent Dozhd TV channel reported.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the troops were being deployed at the request of the Moscow police. A day earlier an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people defied icy rain to protest the official results of Sunday's parliamentary election, which gave victory to the ruling United Russia party led by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It was the largest opposition rally in Moscow in years. People shouted “Russia without Putin,” “Down with thieves and crooks”, “We'll neither forget nor forgive” — in reference to what opposition leaders said was large-scale vote rigging that allowed the Kremlin party to grab more than half the seats in the State Duma.

When protesters began marching from the boulevard where they were allowed to rally towards the Central Election Commission and the Kremlin, riot police moved in breaking up the crowd and bundling people into dozens of buses. About 300 people were detained, including Russian and foreign reporters.

“I have not seen such a crowd in Moscow since 1993,” said Kommersant FM radio editor Dmitry Solopov. He was referring to a standoff between then President Boris Yeltsin and Parliament that led to armed clashes and the storming of the legislature in October 1993 in which hundreds were killed.

Similar protests rallies took place on Monday in St. Petersburg and Samara, where police also detailed hundreds of people.

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