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Thousands March In Russia To Protest Involvement In Ukraine


Russia saw its biggest opposition demonstration in six months yesterday. Thousands of people marched through the streets of Moscow to protest Russia's involvement in Ukraine. About 25,000 people took part in the rare, government-sanctioned protest. NPR's Corey Flintoff has more from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: In Pushkin Square, where the march began, participants had to pass through metal detectors and triple rows of police as a helicopter hovered overhead.


FLINTOFF: On an apartment balcony near the start of the march, someone hung a banner reading, march of traitors. Despite the intimidating entry, people unfurled protest banners with messages such as, hands off Ukraine and, no to war.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

FLINTOFF: The street filled with hundreds of Ukrainian and Russian flags. Some marchers carried posters of Russian soldiers believed to have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine in a place where the Kremlin insists it has no troops on active duty.

MIKHAIL: We are against the war.

FLINTOFF: This is Mikhail, a 30-year-old lawyer who refused to give his last name, saying that participation in the march might hurt his career.

MIKHAIL: We don't want our people to die in Ukraine - unofficially.

FLINTOFF: And you think that your voices will be heard?

MIKHAIL: No. (Laughter). Well, that's the saddest part.


PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

FLINTOFF: Ukrainian Nikolai Cherednichenko is wearing his national colors of yellow and blue. He says the Russians marching beside him have come here despite a torrent of propaganda in the state-run media that portrays Ukraine's government as a fascist junta.

NIKOLAI CHEREDNICHENKO: Propaganda is push very hard to the Russian brain. But step by step, I think Russia understands that this war - it's very bad way for our life. And we need to stop this.


PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

FLINTOFF: In general, the marchers look very much like the people who so unnerved the Kremlin when they staged mass protests in December of 2011 - not revolutionary, but solidly middle-class people who have benefited from Russia's prosperity but don't want to accept what they see as the government repression that comes with it. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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