Russia's Vladimir Putin faced the most intense political pressure of his dominant 12-year rule yesterday after thousands rallied across the country and swarmed in Moscow in an angry protest.

Saturday's historic demonstrations near the Kremlin saw more than 50,000 chant "Russia without Putin" and deride his ruling party for its narrow victory in December 4 elections that were alleged to have been riddled with fraud.

Unrest simmers: Anti-Putin agitators take to the streets to protest
against the Russian Prime Minister. pic/afp

The show of public frustration was unprecedented for a city that emerged from the tumultuous 1990s as the birthplace of the "managed democracy" system that Putin set up across Russia on his rise to the presidency in 2000.

Protesters shouted slogans such as "Putin must go!" and "Swindlers and thievesĀ -- give us our elections back!"
Putin stayed out of the public limelight while his spokesman issued a carefully-worded statement referring
to "a democratic protest by a section of the population" that did not represent the country as a whole. "We respect the point of view of the protesters. We are hearing what is being said and we will continue to listen to them," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in the overnight statement.