In an unusual move, the Russian government announced today it will allow the opposition to host a massive protest in Moscow this weekend.
RIA Novosti, the government's official English-language outlet, said the protesters will be allowed to remain in the streets for four hours. RIA Novosti adds:
"'The rally organizers agreed to hold the rally on Bolotnaya Square offered to them by Moscow authorities in order to ensure that security measures are observed,' Deputy Mayor Alexander Gorbenko told journalists.
"Earlier the opposition planned to hold the rally in another place in the capital's center, on Revolution Square, but the number of people the Moscow administration authorized to come was 300. As thousands had voiced their intention to take part, the city government changed the venue."
As we've reported, over the past few days Russia has been rocked by the largest protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested after taking to the streets complaining that Sunday's parliamentary elections were rigged. But the protests have forced some concessions from the government. Yesterday, President Dmitry Medvedev said people "should have an opportunity to express their opinion."
As the AP interprets it today, that was a significant shift from his authoritarian image. The AP adds a bit on what to expect this weekend:
"Smoldering resentment caught fire, largely through social media, and the country on Saturday expects to see a massive protest rally in Moscow and demonstrations in some 70 other cities.
"'This will be a watershed step in the development our democracy. We expect it to become the biggest political protest in 20 years,' Ilya Ponomarev of the Left Front opposition group said Friday.
"There may soon a symbol to the protests: white ribbons. A group of activists sent up a website urging people to wear them in support of Saturday's demonstrations. They're not yet visible on Moscow's streets but some opposition leaders and even TV presenters are wearing them in their lapels."
The government has approved the rally for 30,000 people.