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Tens of thousands march in protest on eve of Putin's inauguration
MOSCOW (AP) ' At least 20,000 opposition demonstrators marched through Moscow on Sunday, shouting "enough lies," in a final show of protest before Vladimir Putin is inaugurated once again as president.
The turnout appeared smaller than most of the winter's unprecedented wave of protests, some of which attracted crowds estimated at 100,000 or more. Those demonstrations were energized both by anger over fraud-plagued national parliamentary elections and by calls for Putin's defeat in March's presidential poll.
But Putin won the election easily, returning to the Kremlin seat he held in 2000-2008. That raised questions about whether the opposition could maintain its momentum against a leader who dismisses them as naive youths, Western stooges and who won't have to run for re-election for six years.
Some of the demonstrators acknowledged that Putin's election win and his inauguration Monday have been a blow to morale.
"It's true that some have been disappointed," said Yuri Baranov, a 46-year-old information technology specialist. But "the most important thing is that people have awakened."
Others admitted some doubts about whether the protests would spur any long-term change.
"I would like to think that our voice will be heard, but I am not totally sure of this," said Yelena Karpsova, 47, who came to the rally from Tula, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Moscow.
The opposition's effectiveness is weakened by its own amorphousness ' it is a loose alliance of leftists, Western-oriented liberals, nationalists and other factions. Some demonstrators were clearly impatient with the lack of a clear and focused program.
"Create a party, or I'm going to the dacha," read a poster held by one demonstrator, referring to the summer houses to which Muscovites love to flee.