Anti-Putin Rally in Russia Loses Steam; Obama Phones Congrats

By: AP
By: AP

MOSCOW (AP) -- A protest rally in Moscow drew tens of thousands of people, but not on the same level as before the Sunday election that returned Vladimir Putin to the presidency.
More than 20,000 protesters demonstrated on a central Moscow avenue today to demand Vladimir Putin's resignation and protest electoral fraud, but the relatively small crowd suggested the opposition movement has lost some momentum.
Putin, who was Russia's president from 2000-2008 before switching to the prime minister's office due to term limits, won 64 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election.
Because of changes in the length of the presidential term, he is set to return to the Kremlin for at least 6 years.
Opposition activists have grown tired of his heavy-handed rule.
A December parliamentary election that was marred by fraud angered many ordinary Russians and bolstered opposition ranks.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama congratulated Vladimir Putin for winning election as Russia's next president.
Obama and Putin spoke by phone Friday, five days after Putin won a return to the presidential post he held before his protΘgΘ Dmitry Medvedev's single term.
The U.S. has been somewhat cool to Putin, who has been highly critical of the United States -- much more so than the man he's replacing.
The White House says the two men agreed to continue discussion on areas where the U.S. and Russia have differed, including on next steps in Syria.
The White House says Obama told Putin that the two nations have much work to do together. He highlighted current cooperation on nuclear disarmament, Iran sanctions and in Afghanistan.

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