Russia’s middle class rises up against Putin

The Independent reports: “I’m not sure exactly how to explain why I’ll be at the protest,” says Alan Gatsunaev, sipping green tea in a Moscow cafe.

“It just feels like I can’t not be there.” The 30-year-old Muscovite, wearing a grey cardigan and sporting carefully trimmed facial hair, does not look much like an angry protester. A successful real estate consultant, he has benefited from the rise in incomes and economic possibilities under the rule of Vladimir Putin over the past decade, and can invariably be found on Friday and Saturday nights sipping cocktails in upmarket Moscow nightclubs.

Before this week, he had never been to an opposition protest. But, he says, after Mr Putin announced in September that he planned to stand in March elections for a return to the presidency, he began to think enough was enough. After Sunday’s parliamentary elections gave Mr Putin’s United Russia party 49 per cent of the vote, despite the fact that hardly anybody he knew admitted to voting for them, he attended rallies on Monday and Tuesday night, and is one of about 35,000 who have signed up on Facebook to attend a rally in central Moscow this afternoon that will call for new elections.

“I have never thought of myself as a political person, and I think the first time I heard the name Surkov was six months ago,” says Mr Gatsunaev, referring to Vladislav Surkov, a key Kremlin aide who has been the chief ideologist of Russia’s political system during the rule of Mr Putin and his stop-gap replacement, Dmitry Medvedev.

“But I have changed recently. The thing that is most offensive is the level of cynicism. With the internet you can literally see that you are being lied to, and people have just lost patience.”

The Associated Press reports: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday that he has ordered a probe into the allegations of electoral fraud during the Dec. 4 parliamentary vote.

Tens of thousands rallied in Moscow and other cities on Saturday in the largest anti-government protest in Russia’s post-Soviet history to protest the reported fraud and demand the departure of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev on Sunday broke two days of silence by posting a comment on his Facebook page.

“I disagree with the slogans as well as with the speeches that were made at the rallies,” he said, but added that he gave instruction for a check of the reports of fraud. He did not mention who would carry out the probe.

Medvedev’s post generated over 1,000 mostly angry comments within 50 minutes.

“Shame!” and “We don’t believe you!” were the most common.

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