Russia’s anti-government protest movement has gathered momentum as tens of thousands of people said they were prepared to take to the streets this weekend in the biggest challenge to Vladimir Putin’s rule.
With concern inside the Kremlin growing, Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, met their security council, including the interior and defence ministers, the head of the federal security service (FSB) and the country’s foreign intelligence chief, to discuss the situation.
Helicopters hovered in the skies over Moscow, while the police presence on the streets of the Russian capital remained strong following two protests that led to hundreds of people arrested.
The movement was triggered by a disputed parliamentary election result that protesters say wildly overstated the popularity of Putin’s United Russia party.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former premier who oversaw the end of the Soviet Union, on Wednesday called on the Russian authorities to annul the election result and hold a new vote. “More and more people are starting to believe that the election results are not fair,” he told the Interfax news agency. “I believe that ignoring public opinion discredits the authorities and destabilises the situation.”