Oct. 27 - Thousands march through Moscow to demand the release of critics of President Vladimir Putin. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Thousands marched through the streets of Moscow on Sunday to demand the release of more than two dozen critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin who were accused of taking part in riots during an opposition protest near the Kremlin in 2012. The 2012 protest took place in the capital's Bolotnaya square on May 6, the eve of Putin's inauguration to a new six-year term. The so-called "prisoners of Bolotnaya square" are held up by the opposition as victims of a Kremlin crackdown on dissent. Critics accuse Putin of using the courts to sideline opponents since he rose to power in 2000, citing the imprisonment of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot. Protesters from Sunday's demonstration held signs reading "Freedom to the prisoners of Putin's regime", "Putin, go to jail" and "Freedom to political prisoners". Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who joined the march said it was possible to get the Bolotnaya prisoners out of jail, and the coming months were the prime time for action. Twelve people, several of them students, are on trial on charges of rioting and violence against police at the protest on the eve of Putin's inauguration. Most face up to eight years in jail if convicted, and many say they acted in self-defense. Putin, 60, a former KGB spy who has ruled Russia since 2000 either as president or prime minister, has rushed a series of laws through parliament, such as increasing fines for protesters who step out of line, since his return to the Kremlin. Opposition leaders said the laws and the Pussy Riot case were all part of a campaign to stifle dissent, but Putin said he "tried not to think" about what his opponents called a crackdown and did what he thought necessary.