Russian opposition activists gathered on Monday in Moscow's Pushkin Square, calling on Vladimir Putin to resign after a presidential election they say was unfairly skewed in his favor. Putin says he won a fair and open contest.
Thousands of Communist Party members - some with fur coats and scarves hiding their faces - filled the square with red flags. The protesters held signs saying "No to Putin" and "Send Putin to a work camp." At least 100 protesters were arrested.
Former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, a vocal critic of Putin, said on Monday that "Putn stole all of Russia last night… he is a crazy dictator that wants to rule forever."
One of the opposition leader, Ilya Yashin said: "Yesterday we saw tears in the eyes of a dictator. Did he cry when houses blew up in Russia? Did he cry when the Kursk submarine sank? These are tears of fear."
Putin's supporters gathered in the shadow of the Kremlin, waving flags printed with the words "Putin is our president".
Official results show Putin won 63.6 percent of the vote on Sunday but international vote monitors said the election was unfairly skewed in his favor.
Putin served two terms as president from 2000-2008. He received 71 percent support when re-elected in 2004.
Reports of election fraud flooded the blogosphere, describing systematic double and even triple votes in the 91,000 voting stations across the country. Bloggers reported that people were driven from bal-lot to ballot to vote multiple times, including one woman who said she was paid 5,000 rubles to use a special certificate to vote outside of her home district.
Putin, 59, ran on a platform of political stability, economic development and military rearmament.
Although voter turnout surpassed that of the 2008 elections, many voters told Haaretz that they see no point in casting their vote. Tatiana Andreeva, a pensioner who came to vote at polling station number 298, did not show too much enthusiasm when she glanced at the billboard showcasing the different candidates. When she cast her ballot, she said, "I voted for Gennady Zyuganov (the Communist). I don't like him, but how many times can I vote for Putin? I even protested against him. Every day they scare us with threats of instability."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now