French actor Gerard Depardieu, who took Russian citizenship this month and considers Putin a friend, spoke out against the opposition in an interview shown Sunday on Russian state television. "The opposition has no program, nothing at all," the actor said, echoing Putin. "There are very smart people like (former world chess champion Garry) Kasparov, but that's only good for chess. And that's it. But politics are a lot more complicated."
The adoption ban also revived anger over the December 2011 parliamentary election, which independent observers said was won by Putin's party through widespread fraud. A column of marchers on Sunday held a banner calling for the State Duma, the elected lower house, to be disbanded.
"The Duma that now adopts these kinds of laws is illegitimate. It was formed with the theft of 100 million votes," said opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former Duma member who lost his seat when independent members were ousted in 2007. "It doesn't have the moral or political right to adopt laws for us. The disbanding of the Duma and the overturning of the law: That's why people, including me, came out today."
At the end of the protest, marchers dumped the posters of Putin and parliament members in an industrial-sized trash container that had "for disposal" scribbled on it.
Sunday's protest had been authorized by the city government, which was one factor behind the high turnout. Several protesters were detained for what police said was violating public order, but all were later released. The Kremlin has sought to stifle dissent by imposing steep fines on those who take part in unauthorized protests and opening criminal investigations against popular protest leaders.
Just ahead of the weekend demonstration, Putin's spokesman sought to ease anger over the adoption ban by announcing that some of the dozens of adoptions already under way could go forward, allowing children who have already bonded with American adoptive parents to leave the country.
UNICEF estimates there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia, while about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child. Since the law banning American adoptions was passed, Russian political and religious leaders have been encouraging Russians to adopt more children.
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