By Ria Novosti
Moscow witnessed a second evening of protests over alleged electoral fraud by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party on Tuesday.
Opponents of the party, which has nominated Putin as its candidate in upcoming presidential elections, faced off with United Russia supporters amid a heavy police presence.
The two groups shouted slogans at each other for around 90 minutes and more than 250 protestors were arrested before they cleared Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square where the dueling demonstrations took place, police and reporters on the scene said.
“They attempted to block traffic and refused to obey the legal demands of police” at the scene, a Moscow police spokesman said.
Tuesday’s competing demonstrations came a day after thousands of people angry at the outcome of Sunday’s elections to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, turned out for what was one of the largest protests seen in Moscow in years.
The demonstrators on Monday were dispersed by police as they attempted to march in the direction of the Kremlin, but police said around 300 people had been detained, many of whom still remained in custody on Tuesday.
United Russia opponents have alleged that the elections were marred by large-scale fraud, resulting in a hugely inflated score for the party.
United Russia won more votes than any of the other three parliamentary parties but nonetheless turned in a showing of around 50 percent, according to official results, which is a significant drop from the two-thirds constitutional majority it has enjoyed for the past four years.
International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other institutions said the election was skewed in United Russia’s favor. Party supporters, too, have acknowledged some violations but have countered that those were not sufficient to have altered the outcome and that the vote was legitimate overall.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who topped the United Russia ticket, affirmed on Tuesday that all allegations of irregularities warranted investigation. Although, he said, amateur videos posted on social networks purporting to show cases of fraud were not “incontestable” proof of wrongdoing.
A live video feed from the site of the protests on Tuesday showed hundreds of policemen surrounding several crowds on opposite sides of the fenced perimeter in the middle of the square.
Dozens of police cars, trucks and buses were parked nearby and police officers could be seen walking individual men and women into the buses.
Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, which participated in the vote and pledged to contest its results in court, was detained by police, along with an opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, according to spokesmen for both. They were later released.
Separately, police in the northern city of St. Petersburg said around 60 people participating in a protest against the results of the vote were detained.