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Protesters gather in Moscow for opposition rally
Thousands gather in central Moscow for anti-Putin rally seen as test of opposition's strength
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) ' Thousands of protesters flocked to a central Moscow avenue Saturday to demand Vladimir Putin's resignation and protest electoral fraud.

Saturday's rally had been widely seen as a test of whether the opposition is able to maintain its strength after Prime Minister Putin won a return to the Kremlin.

Putin, Russia's president in 2000-2008, had to step down in 2008 to avoid the terms' limitations. He won 64 percent of the vote on Sunday and is set to stay in the Kremlin for the next 6 years.

Although violations at the presidential vote were numerous, observers, however, viewed the vote as fairer compared to the December parliamentary vote.

But the protesters do not recognize the vote's results. "These weren't elections. This isn't a president," read a banner on the stage.

"I don't believe that this election was fair," 18-year-old student Elizaveta Chernysheva said. "There have been a lot of falsifications."

City authorities have given permission for a rally of up to 50,000 on the sidewalk of a central Novy Arbat avenue which is part of the route used by high-speed motorcades that whisk top figures to and from the Kremlin.

Rallies protesting the widely reported fraud in the parliamentary election have attracted up to 100,000 people in the largest display of discontent in Russia's post-Soviet history.

On Monday, the day after the election, Moscow police arrested some 250 people who stayed on a central-city square after the time authorized for a protest rally ran out.

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