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Poor turn out for opposition rally

Abolishing United Russia's political monopoly has become a unifying idea for civil activists of differing hues. The first of an intended series of united actions saw a rally on Pushkinskaya Ploshchad in central Moscow on Tuesday.

Fair elections and registration of oppositional parties were also among the slogans that sounded and organisers hope that this particular mood for protest could soon spread nationwide.

This time, however, neither 'exhibition of civil initiatives' or the rock concert scheduled in the programme could attract more than a few dozens of protestors.

Disappointing numbers

About 100 people attended yesterday's rally, Kasparov.ru reported. The figure fell far short of the 2,000 that organisers had asked to be allowed to gather when they submitted their proposal to City Hall.

The rally, officially authorised, was organised by human rights activists Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Lev Ponomaryev, Valery Borshshev, as well as Sergei Kanayev, head of the Russian Federation of Car Owners, Khimki forest defender Yevgeniya Chirikova, Sergei Udaltsov, Left Front leader, and Mikhail Shneider from the Solidarnost movement, Interfax reported.

But neither the impressive roll-call nor the unknown rockers who took to the nearby stage could draw the punters.

Organisers, however, are not discouraged and are planning a bigger action closer to the coming parliamentary election.

"We are trying to organize similar rallies in other regions," Ponomaryev, the leader of the "For Human Rights" movement, told RIA Novosti. "I hope that in Autumn we will be holding these protests on a monthly basis ­ in September, October and November ­ until the December elections," he said.

A new direction

Rallying for fair and free elections is a change of tack from the tempestuous Strategy 31 protests on Moscow's Triumphalnaya Ploshchad, which clamoured for the right to gather, citing the 31st article of the constitution, and which first got the go-ahead in October.

The series of protest was initially organised by Alexeyeva, head of Moscow's Helsinki Group, and Eduard Limonov, leader of Another Russia and political loose cannon.

When forbidden they united human rights Stalwart Alexeyeva and political maverick Limonov. But in November 2010 visible cracks appeared and in December the two organised separate rallies of their own, competing for the same space on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad.

Limonov says he will continue to organise unauthorised meetings, which mark each 31st day of the month, with arrests and clashes with riot police. Alexeyeva says that Strategy 31's demand to rally has been won and the fight has now moved on.

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