Street Provocations in Moscow Ahead of Inauguration
May 7, 2012 • 8:08AM

Some 250 people were arrested and several dozen injured (most of them police) in street clashes during an anti-Vladimir Putin rally in Moscow Sunday. Organizers of the so-called March of Millions, who had a permit for a rally of 5,000 people on Bolotnaya Square, included leading lights of last winter's attempted Snowy Revolution: Sergei Udaltsov of the Left Front, Parnas party leader and neoliberal economist Boris Nemtsov, and self-appointed anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, darling of the Project Democracy support networks in the UK and USA. Those three were arrested by the end of the day. Ostensibly people of widely different political views, their unifying platform was that all recent elections, and therefore Putin's inauguration as President tomorrow, are illegitimate.

Udaltsov, in statements shown on television, called on rally participants to violate the terms of the rally permit by marching to the Kremlin and beginning an open-ended sit-in to demand air time equal to what government officials receive. Lines of OMON riot police blocked the bridge from Bolotnaya toward the Kremlin. Some of the marchers sat down on the bridge, while others — as shown in raw videos posted on the Internet — attacked the OMON forces with flagpoles, Molotov cocktails, and stones. The OMON troops then moved to clear the bridge, while arresting Udaltsov and others back at the Bolotnaya rally stage. He, Nemtsov, and Navalny have been detained for inciting to riot.

Russian First Channel TV aired from-the-street interviews with opposition figures Gennadi Gudkov (A Just Russia) and Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko Party), who said that provocateurs had wrecked the whole event. Mitrokhin accused Udaltsov of trying to "privatize" the protests.

Across town on Poklonnaya Gora, tens of thousands rallied in support of Putin and to mark the first anniversary of his National Front organization.