One day, Russians almost made history.
On May 6, 2012, hundreds of thousands of Russians walked out in a protest of the upcoming inauguration of Vladimir Putin. The national protest rally, “March of the Millions”, was attended by between 20 and 80 thousand people in Moscow alone.
During the Moscow rally, protesters clashed with the police, forced through the cordons and gathered in improvised sit-outs in the streets. The protesters’ demands included providing the opposition with live air time on federal television and repeal of the recent presidential elections. The demands were never met.
Independent news media reported injuries on both sides, with the police and the protesters clashing fiercely at around 6 PM in the Bolotnaya and Manezhnaya squares in Moscow.
The government strategy to contain the March of the Millions was to set up a series of security checkpoints that dramatically slowed down the entry into the official rally space.
Following the usual pattern, the Kremlin forces organized a series of pro-Putin events simultaneously with the national protest rally. No reports of violence or clashes with the police came from those events. Russia’s anti-Kremlin sources claim these events are only attended by professional stand-ins and workers of state-funded companies. The latter are allegedly forced to attend the pro-Kremlin rallies by their employers.
The rally was followed by a new opposition-organized rally, this time dubbed mass strolls, which is legal to hold, yet very irritating for the police. Alexey Navalny and Sergey Udaltsov, the biggest opposition activists, will remain in jail for another two weeks.
Same week, the infamous mass strols becamy #OccupyAbay.
Activists, organizers and some participants of the rally were detained the same day, or within the following months, and were charged under what is now known as the Bolotnaya File (Bolotnoe Delo).
As for Putin, well, he’s still around.