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Tens of thousands at Moscow demos

Tens of thousands demonstrators have rallied in the Russian capital in another massive protest against election fraud, signalling a growing outrage with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule.

The demonstration in Moscow was as big as the one two weeks ago - the largest show of discontent the nation has seen since the 1991 Soviet collapse - although rallies in other cities in the far east and Siberia earlier drew much smaller crowds.

Rally participants gathered on a broad avenue about 1.5 miles from the Kremlin on a snowy day.

A stage at one side of the avenue featured placards reading "Russia Will be Free" and "This Election is a Farce".

Recent protests in Moscow and other cities have dented Mr Putin's authority as he seeks to reclaim the presidency in next March's vote. The Kremlin has responded by promising a set of political reforms that would liberalise election rules.

But protest leaders say they will continue pushing for a rerun of the December 4 parliamentary election and punishment for officials accused of fraud. They say maintaining momentum is key to forcing the government to accept their demands.

"We want to back those who are fighting for our rights," said 16-year-old Darya Andryukhina, who said she also attended the previous rally.

"People have come here because they want respect," said Tamara Voronina, 54, who said she was proud of her three sons who had also joined the protest.

The protests have reflected a growing public frustration with Mr Putin, who ruled Russia as president from 2000-2008, and has remained the nation's number one leader after moving into the prime minister's seat due to a constitutional term limit.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned as Soviet president 20 years ago, has urged prime minister Vladimir Putin to follow his example and step down. Mr Gorbachev says if Mr Putin stepped down now he would be remembered for the positive things he did during his 12 years in power.

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