Huge Anti-Putin Human Chain Protest Encircles Moscow

Sunday, February 26, 2012: Tens of thousands of Russians have linked hands around the Moscow inner ring road in symbolic protest against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's expected return to a third term as president in March 4 polls. (AFP Photo/Alexey Sazonov)

Huge Anti-Putin Human Chain Protest Encircles Moscow

Just a week before Russia's election, tens of thousands of anti-Putin protesters formed a continuous human chain stretching 10 miles around the center of Moscow on Sunday afternoon.

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Agence France-Pressereports:

Thousands of Russians linked hands around Moscow on Sunday in a protest against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's expected return to the Kremlin for a third term in elections next weekend.

A din of endless honking descended on Moscow's 16-kilometre (10-mile) Garden Ring Road as drivers expressed support for the human chain of smiling and waving people who gathered in freezing snowy weather.

"We came here because we disagree with what happened in the legislative elections," said Mikhail, 22, in reference to fraud-tainted December 4 polls that sparked the first mass protests of Putin's 12-year domination of Russia.

Police said at least 11,000 people braved the swirling snow at the event but organisers said 30,000 had turned out to deliver a message to Putin one week ahead of the presidential polls on March 4.

"People came here because they hope that this time their votes will be counted," said another 48-year-old member of the human chain who identified himself as Mikhail.

Pedestrians of all ages -- their coats adorned with the white ribbons that are the symbol of the anti-Putin movement -- joined hands and raised their linked arms in celebration.

They formed a circular chain aimed at enclosing all of inner Moscow in scenes not witnessed since the days of the Soviet collapse. One unbroken line of people stretched over the landmark Krymsky Bridge spanning the Moscow River.

The protest action echoes a historic human chain that the three tiny Baltic states organized in 1989 to demand their independence from the Soviet Union.

More than a million people were estimated to have taken part in a protest that was followed in the next two years by their declarations of independence and the Soviet system's collapse.

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