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As Putin’s Popularity Soars, Voices of Opposition Are Being Drowned Out

 One was a pro-government rally “in support of Crimea and against fascism,” led by a phalanx of husky men in identical crimson jackets, marching military-style in a sea of red. Some held signs reading “No Maidan in Moscow” and “Glory to Berkut,” references to Independence Square, the site of the Ukrainian protests in Kiev, and to the riot police who cracked down on the protesters.

The other was called a “March for Peace,” convened by the opposition to President Vladimir V. Putin. Holding paper doves aloft, they chanted “Putin Is Afraid of the Maidan” and a Ukrainian phrase that translates as “Putin, Get Out!” The police estimated that there were 3,000 people in this crowd, but it seemed many times larger, in the tens of thousands, filling a boulevard with bodies for many blocks. The split reaction here reflects domestic tensions. Mr. Putin, who was shaken by large antigovernment demonstrations in Moscow two years ago, is using the confrontation to consolidate the public behind his rule, tapping into the deep well of emotion about the Soviet Union’s suffering at the hands of Nazi Germany.

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