Less than 24 hours after Alexei Navalny, corruption fighter and President Vladimir Putin’s fierce opponent, was handcuffed and led away to serve a five- year prison sentence, he was free again to run for mayor of Moscow. Guessing at the reasons for the turnaround has become the Moscow political community’s favorite game in recent days, showing that no one really understands the workings of the nation’s Byzantine government.
Moscow police detained more than 200 people after thousands of protesters rallied in central Moscow the day after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed victory in a presidential election that international observers criticized as unfair.
If the largest anti-government demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union have had any meaningful effect on Russia's leadership, you would hardly have guessed it from the president's traditional New Year's Eve address to the nation.
The mass demonstrations held Saturday to protest manipulation of Russia's parliamentary elections achieved something even greater than a turnout of some 50,000 in Moscow: They showed that rebellion doesn’t have to involve violence.
Anyone with an Internet connection can easily see why throngs of protestors have been clashing with riot police in the wake of Russia's Dec. 4 parliamentary vote. Check out the map, posted by independent monitor Golos, showing the number of election violations in cities and towns throughout Russia. Or search Youtube for "vote rigging 2011" (фальсификация выборов 2011) and take your pick from clips displaying everything from pre-stuffed ballot boxes to election officials furtively filling in votes.