Anti-government sentiment in Russia looks set to reach a peak on Saturday with plans for a massive rally, which organisers predict could be attended by up to 30,000 people. But an estimated 50,000 police officers have been drafted in as the Russian government seeks to stifle protests that it sees as unfair, unpatriotic and influenced by the US.
Although the ruling United Russia party saw its support drop considerably in last week’s elections, some still believe that the vote was marked by massive irregularities. The protests have turned into a wider demonstration against a government perceived by many as authoritarian and paranoid, and against the prospect of Vladimir Putin returning to the presidency in 2012.
Authorities in Moscow have granted permission (always a strange concept) for a demonstration away from the heart of the city, but they warn that attempts to spread the protest will be illegal and will be met with force if necessary. The scene seems to be set for a tense confrontation and, for the first time in 12 years, Vladimir Putin looks to be not entirely in control.