Anti-Putin rally held in hometown St. Petersburg

About 3,000 demonstrators have gathered in the heart of Russia's second-largest city for a protest rally against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a week before presidential elections in which he seeks to return to the Kremlin.

The demonstrators marched today through St. Petersburg's streets, chanting slogans including "Putin is a thief."

Police presence was heavy, but no arrests were reported in the rally, which had official sanction.

The turnout was smaller than many of the demonstrations that broke out in Russia after fraud-tainted parliamentary elections in December.

Several protests in Moscow have drawn 50,000 or more, the largest show of public anger in post-Soviet Russia.

Putin, who was Russian president in 2000-2008, is widely expected to win against four challengers in the March 4 election.

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