21 Mar 2010

Thousands protest against Russian PM

9:33 am on 21 March 2010

Thousands of Russians have taken to the streets in rallies across the country in a protest about falling living standards, unemployment, local issues and government policies.

The day was organised by a coalition of opposition groups and there have been calls for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his government to resign at several of the rallies, the BBC reports.

The Communist Party, the Solidarity movement and human rights groups organised the protests under the banner of A Day of Anger, with demonstrators turning out in several cities from the Far East to the Baltic coast.

The rallies, some of which were sanctioned, began in Vladivostok, where 1,500 people turned out, and continued in Irkutsk in Siberia and later St Petersburg where 1,000 rallied.

Police stopped a demonstration going ahead in the capital Moscow and are reported to have detained about 70 people.

Support for Mr Putin's United Russia party fell in recent local elections, and the economic crisis has brought a sudden end to 10 years of growth.

Many participants in the rallies demanded the resignation of Mr Putin and other public officials.