(MOSCOW) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin dismissed the first two anti-Putin protests on the streets of Moscow in December, but to counter this Saturday’s planned protests, his apparatchiks have sanctioned three pro-Putin rallies in Moscow and more across Russia.
Gazeta.ru is reporting that public school teachers are being ordered to attend the pro-Putin rallies and that the teachers union leadership has promised to get 30,000 of its members to show up. Russian media is saying that it is being told to show happy faces.
Pro-Putin forces are trying to show that the prime minister has a lot of support from the working class, while suggesting those who support the opposition are spoiled white collar workers.
Putin’s pushback reflects a significant change in tone from December, when he dismissed the first demonstration as the work forces trying to destabilize Russia. He then infuriated his opponents when he said he thought the white ribbons on their lapels were condoms.
Meanwhile, the anti-Putin forces continue to use Facebook and related Russian websites to marshal supporters. More than 25,000 people have confirmed on Facebook their possible participation at this weekend’s anti-Putin demonstration.
The obstacle standing in the way of a large turnout this Saturday is the weather. A blistering cold snap has engulfed Russia and Eastern Europe. On Wednesday, for example, the temperature in Moscow dipped to -8 degrees Fahrenheit. When the wind chill was taken into account, the temperature dropped to -22.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Mohammed Tawfeeq, Joe Sterling and Susanna Capelouto, CNN
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Livia Borghese and Joshua Berlinger, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN