Though reports of the 130,000-strong pro-Putin rally in a Moscow soccer stadium today make it sound like the once-and-future president has the support of all of Russia, the fact tht many of the attendees were coerced into attending suggests otherwise.
In what he called the biggest rally held for Vladimir Putin to date, al-Jazeera correspondent Rory Challands says that 130,000 Russians gathered in support of Putin at the 78,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium, citing police reports. The rally itself featured Putin's familiar jingoism ("We are a victorious nation. This is in our genes."), but undercutting message that was Challands's note that many of the ralliers admitted to being forced to attend.
That's in agrement with the AP report, which notes that many "appeared to be state employees who attended at the behest of their employers." (The news wire's crowd estimate was "about 100,000.") Others, it seems, were simply paid to go. The perks of a pro-Putin rally? "Some said they were promised two days off in return for attending," says the AP. One attendee told Reuters he was paid the equivalent of $67 to be bussed in to Moscow. Putin's party, United Russia, seems to be playing a game of who-has-the-bigger-rally against his opposition. The big anti-Putin protest in December only drew a crowd of 50,000, according to one count. And that probably-fake pro-Putin one following it a week later had 25,000 attendees. Not that these gatherings really matter at the polls: Putin's nearly guaranteed reelection.