Thousands at a previous protest against disputed elections and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Russian capital Moscow
2:54am UK, Saturday February 04, 2012
Tens of thousands of people are preparing to take to the streets of Moscow to protest both for and against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The largest of four rallies is due to start at 12pm GMT and is likely to be an anti-Putin march from Oktyabrskaya metro to Bolotnaya Square, where around 50,000 people protested on December 10.
So far, nearly 30,000 people have signed up on Facebook to take part in the demonstration under anti-Putin slogans to demand fair elections.
It will be the first mass rally to be held this year – exactly one month before the presidential elections which Mr Putin is expected to win.
Vladimir Putin talking to students in Tomsk last month
In December, tens of thousands gathered in two separate mass protests.
Establishing a white ribbon as their symbol, they voiced anger at what they say were rigged elections which Mr Putin’s party United Russia won with just under 50% of the vote.
Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the polls were slanted in favour of United Russia, citing apparent manipulations like stuffing of ballot boxes.
It is thought that expected temperatures of -16C may mean many would-be protesters opt to stay at home.
State doctors have advised against attending and advice has been issued on how to cope with the extreme cold.
It includes having a nutritious hot meal beforehand, wearing layers, mittens instead of gloves and carrying emergency supplies of chocolate or sweets.
A pro-Putin rally has also been arranged amid claims that teachers and hospital staff are being threatened or offered money to attend.
Last week Mr Putin told Sky News that he was “not concerned” about recent protests calling for him to resign.
Organisers have denied the claims and say those who come to the gathering at Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park in Moscow will be doing so entirely of their own volition.
The rally has been called an “anti-Orange protest” – in reference to Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution that ousted its old order from power and infuriated the Kremlin.
Its organisers expect 50,000 people to turn up.