The protesters, comprising mainly youth, advanced from Moscow's central Pushkin Square even as the president had told during his speech to mark the occasion that no such protest move would be tolerated. Organisers of the protest march said more than 1,00,000 people participated in it while Moscow city police refuted the claim, saying not more than 18,000 people joined the anti-Putin march. TV footage, however, did not support the police's claims.
Some of the protesters, taking a dig at President Putin, who is currently enjoying his third term in office, said they were spending their days under occupation and were fighting occupiers in their own country.
The protest occurred just a day after the police raided the homes of the movement's leaders. Almost all the frontline leaders of the movement, mainly driven by social network, failed to participate in march for they were being interrogated by authorities, who allegedly did so to disrupt the protest programme. The US also condemned the Putin administration for the incident and expressed concern over the maltreatment being meted out to the political opposition.
The President, a former KGB agent, said on Tuesday that his administration would not tolerate actions that could give social or economic blows to Russia. He even accused Washington of indirectly fuelling the anti-Putin mood.
Political observers feel the latest movement, although still is in its earlier days, could be the biggest challenge that Putin has faced during his entire stay at the helm of affairs in Russian politics over a decade now. Putin has also served as the Russian Premier twice.
Leaders of the protest march including Boris Nemstov and Sergei Udaltsov and anti-corruption 'blogger activist' Alexei Navalny and anti-govt activist Kesina Sobchak were interrogated by the police for expressing discontent and joining protest rallies against Putin. Some of the independent media sources were also barred while the protesters were assembling at the Pushkin Square. The state-run media sources, however, continued to function normally.
The opposition media and the leaders slammed the Putin administration for trying to quash popular grievance.