Russia protest: White ribbon emerges as rallying symbol

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Car with white ribbonImage source, Other
Image caption,
This Twitter user posted a picture of his car on the internet

Discontent is spreading in Russia, on the internet as well as on the streets, as thousands object to what they see as the rigging of last Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Several groups have emerged online, urging people to wear white ribbons to show their support for the protests.

The ribbon appears to mimic the symbols of revolution adopted by former Soviet republics: orange in Ukraine, the rose in Georgia and the tulip in Kyrgyzstan.

White ribbons have begun appearing not only on blogs but on cars and in buttonholes.

"Yesterday I went to the shops, bought 25cm of white ribbon and tied it to my car aerial," said Alena, a cab driver from Magadan in Russia's Far East.  

"For me, the white ribbon is a visual sign of my protest," she said.

'No revolution'

"I don't need a revolution, but I do want new elections to happen in Russia - ones in which votes aren't stolen." 

Alena discovered the White Ribbon campaign on Twitter but added: "I would have found out about it anyway, since I have a lot of friends on Vkontakte [another Russian social network]."

"I tied my ribbon to the bag I take to work, which I use to carry documents," says Vitaly from Tula. "People ask me: 'what's that sticking out of your bag?' and I reply: that's my political stance as a citizen."

A restaurant manager from Tula in central Russia, Vitaly intends to participate in a protest on Saturday in his home city. Had Tula not been planning its own rally, he thinks he would have gone to Moscow. He is following all the current news on Twitter.  

"For me the white ribbon is a symbol of disagreement with the elections we've just had. Nobody wants to undermine the existing social system, but the democratic society which we have been building all these years does not agree with unfair elections." 

According to Vitaly, those who support the campaign do not have to be opposed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev in the slightest. They just have to want "honest, normal elections".

TV presenters

But the campaign is not universally popular.

"As far as I understand," says Twitter-user Arina "the white ribbon is a symbol of revolution, whether it's white, snow-white or anything else. And this is not something that Russia needs."

Several presenters on private Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) have been wearing white ribbons to work since Wednesday. The channel's artistic director, Svetlana Dolya, has one pinned on her chest.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in protests in Moscow and St Petersburg

"For me it's a symbol of transparency and clarity, in many ways," she says. "The more people who wear a ribbon, the more obvious it will become that nobody agrees with the results of the elections, the falsifications."

Information about the campaign is being spread via social networks. The hashtag "white" instantly emerged on Twitter; pages were also created on Facebook and VKontakte.

"The idea of 'the white ribbon' was already floating in the air," says Arsen Revazov who wrote about a "snowy revolution" on his Facebook page on Tuesday evening, urging Muscovites to pin them in large numbers to handbags, arms and lapels.

There is also evidence to suggest the symbol dates back two months. The blogging platform (white ribbon) was online as early as 9 October. Its creators suggested that all those in disagreement with the elections start adopting the symbol. 

"My name is Elena and I live in Moscow," the website states.

"Like many of you, I never thought about politics and had never been a member of any party. Like many of you, after I saw the leaders of our country publicly, in front of everybody, handing out positions in the Kremlin administration to each another, I understood that something had to be done."