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Two Moscow protesters hang anti-government banner off bridge by Kremlin

Two Moscow protesters hang anti-government banner off bridge by Kremlin

Two protesters rappelled off a bridge near the Kremlin on Thursday and hung a banner criticizing President Vladimir Putin's government for recent changes to election law.
The protesters _ one of whom was the daughter of former Prime Minster Yegor Gaidar _ unfurled a 50-foot (15 meter) banner reading "Return The Elections to the People, Bastards!" and hung from the Bolshoi Kamensky Bridge for more than 30 minutes before police and emergency workers hauled them up and detained them.
Organizers said the protest was in response to last week's vote by the Russian parliament's lower house, which gave preliminary approval to scrapping minimum turnout requirements for elections to be pronounced valid.
Critics said the legislation, which will go through a third and final vote in coming weeks, was the latest effort by the Kremlin toward tightening its grip on Russia's political life.
Ivan Bolshakov, head of the youth wing of the liberal Yabloko party, blamed Putin's supporters in government _ many of whom are veterans or employees of Russia's intelligence agencies. They are known sometimes as "chekists," after the first Soviet security agency and predecessor to the KGB, the Cheka.
"An authoritarian regime has been established in the country; the chekists have come to power again," Bolshakov told APTV. "They are in the presidential administration, on the TV channels, in major Russian companies. They control everything. ... And they also control the elections, as it used to be during Soviet times."
In recent years, Putin's government has pushed legislation that scrapped the direct election of regional leaders, barred voters from casting ballots "against all" candidates and increased the minimum proportion of votes required for a party to gain a parliamentary seat.