Police in Russia’s capital began cracking heads Sunday once some of the 20,000 Russians marching against Vladimir Putin made a turn for the Kremlin. Putin resumes the presidency Monday after a four-year interlude as prime minister.

He first took office as acting president Dec. 31, 1999.

“The ongoing protests show that Putin’s support among educated and urban Russians is declining rapidly. This middle class, which has profited most from the stable economic growth under Putin, is nonetheless increasingly impatient with the lack of political participation and Russia’s endemic corruption,” wrote Truthdig Russia analyst Ivo Mijnssen in March.

Here’s a sign, captured in an article by The Associated Press, that the Putin regime would rather look tough than win over the hearts and minds of an unruly middle class:

The ground was left littered with broken glass and splattered with blood. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, defended the police action.

“I would have liked them to be tougher,” he said on the Dozhd cable television channel.


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