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Russia protests: Thousands march against Putin in Moscow (VIDEO)

Tens of thousands of Russians have joined anti-government protests in Moscow despite attempts by President Vladimir Putin to clamp down on opposition to his rule.

Russia protests against putin 20120612Enlarge
Opposition activists rally in Moscow, on June 12, 2012. Tens of thousands of protesters chanting "Russia Will be Free" rallied today in Moscow against President Vladimir Putin's third term despite a police crackdown on their leaders a day earlier. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of Russians have joined protests in Moscow today, demonstrating against President Vladimir Putin and demanding fresh elections.

The anti-government protests, which come on the June 12 national holiday known as Russia Day, are taking place despite tough new measures by Putin to try and clamp down on growing opposition to his rule. 

Last week, Putin signed a new law that imposes heavy fines on those accused of violating protest guidelines.

Agence France-Presse said the protest penalties were raised to 300,000 rubles ($9,000), which is about the size of a Russian's average annual salary.

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According to Reuters, marchers chanted "Russia will be free" in what is the first major rally since Putin was sworn in again as president on May 7.

Police raided the homes of several prominent opposition movement figures yesterday ahead of the protests.

One of the activists, Sergei Udaltsov, ignored an order to report for questioning and instead led a group of marchers and addressed the crowd, Reuters said.

According to the BBC, independent media websites went down shortly before the rally.

Russia Day is an annual holiday marking the country's declaration of sovereignty from Soviet rule on June 12, 1990.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120612/russia-protests-anti-putin-rally-moscow