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Thousands rally in Russia over fraud-tainted vote

Protester holding a poster depicting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev shouts slogans during a rally to protest against alleged vote rigging in St.Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. About 7,000 demonstrators demanding a rerun of parliamentary elections gathered Saturday in central St.Petersburg for a second weekend of protests against Russia's fraud-tainted vote, a comparatively small crowd that underlined the challenge to the opposition of keeping up public pressure on authorities. Protester holding a poster depicting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev shouts slogans during a rally to protest against alleged vote rigging in St.Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. About 7,000 demonstrators demanding a rerun of parliamentary elections gathered Saturday in central St.Petersburg for a second weekend of protests against Russia's fraud-tainted vote, a comparatively small crowd that underlined the challenge to the opposition of keeping up public pressure on authorities. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
By Nataliya Vasilyeva
Associated Press / December 18, 2011
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MOSCOW—Thousands took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sunday, braving strong winds and torrential rains for a second week of protests over Russia's fraud-tainted parliamentary vote.

About 4,000 supporters of the Communist Party rallied just outside the walls of the Kremlin on a snowy afternoon, demanding a re-count and the government's resignation. Wind and rain later turned into a blizzard.

Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over a decade.

"I think it's a crime to keep silent," said Vyacheslav Frolov, who was at the Moscow protest.

In St. Petersburg, a rally in a central square drew about 4,000 people from various political parties. Protesters chanted: "Russia without Putin!" and held posters saying "We want to live in an honest country!"

Natalya Sheikina, a 31-year-old teacher, said she went to the protest to show her discontent with the election results.

"The vote has been rigged," she said. "Exit polls and officials results differ dramatically."

The protests follow the Dec. 4 national parliamentary elections, in which United Russia lost a significant share of its seats in the State Duma, though it retained a narrow majority.

Opposition forces claim even that was unearned, supported by reports from local and international observers of widespread vote-count irregularities and outright fraud.

Sunday's demonstrations were small compared to nationwide rallies held in at least 60 Russian cities last weekend, including an unprecedented gathering of tens of thousands in Moscow.

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Irina Titova in St. Petersburg and Andrey Bulay in Moscow contributed to this report.

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