Thousands marched in Moscow in defiance of police raids on opposition leaders' homes and new fines for public disorder. 'All power to the people!' changed Russian protesters.
Thousands of Russians chanted "Russia will be free" in a march through Moscow on Tuesday to protest against President Vladimir Putin, shrugging off his tough new tactics intended to quash any challenge to his rule.
Protesters streamed down a leafy central boulevard in the first major rally since Putin was sworn in on May 7, saying they would not be deterred by police raids on opposition leaders' homes and a new law stiffening fines for public order offenses.
"Those who fought are beyond being scared," said Valery Zagovny, a 50-year-old who served for the Soviet army in Afghanistan and was wearing the medals to prove it. "Let those behind the red-toothed walls of the Kremlin be scared."
Welcomed by a heavy downpour some joked had been orchestrated by the president himself, protesters waved flags and shouted "Russia without Putin" despite the absence of leaders who had been summoned to appear before investigators.
Leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov ignored his summons for questioning about violence at a rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration, and led a group of marchers carrying red flags and chanting "Putin to jail!" and "All power to the people!".
Helmeted riot police manned metal barriers along parts of the route, but the police presence was lighter compared with some earlier protests. Ilya Ponomaryov, an opposition lawmaker, said about 60,000 to 70,000 people had turned out, much higher than the police estimate of 18,000.