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Thousands March in Moscow to Protest Crimea Vote

Image: People take part in an anti-war rally in Moscow
People take part in an anti-war rally in Moscow March 15, 2014. Participants, including opposition activists and supporters, protested against the incursions of the Russian army into Crimea, according to organizers. MAXIM SHEMETOV / Reuters

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched in central Moscow Saturday, a day before a Kremlin-backed referendum in Crimea on whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.

It was the largest anti-government demonstration since 2012. Demonstrators waved Russian and Ukrainian flags, while opposition activists — including two members of the Pussy Riot punk band — shouted "Say no to war!" and "Putin, go away!" from the stage.

Protesters also held up banners that read: "For your freedom and for ours!" One demonstrator held up a plate of salo — cured pork fat that is a staple of Ukrainian cuisine and adored by many Russians — along with a poster that read: "Make salo, not war!"

Image: Rallies Held In Moscow Ahead of Secession Vote
Thousands of Muscovites took part in an opposition rally against intervention in Ukraine and a possible war in Crimea. Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images Contributor

Nearby, a rally of several thousand was held close to the Kremlin in support of Russian intervention in Crimea.

Image: Pro-Kremlin activists march in Moscow
Pro-Kremlin activists from a group called "Essence of Time" march in Moscow in support of Russia's recent move on Crimea. Their flags bore the slogan "USSR 2.0." DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV / AFP - Getty Images

None of Russia's state-owned news channels showed footage from the anti-government protest, and instead showed live video from the rally near the Kremlin, where large gangs of men from a group called "Essence of Time" dressed in uniform red jackets and marched to the sound of Soviet-era military music in disciplined columns.

Image: Demonstrators march in support of Kremlin-backed plans for the Ukrainian province of Crimea to break away and merge with Russia, in Moscow
Demonstrators in Moscow march in support of Kremlin-backed plans for the Ukrainian province of Crimea to break away and merge with Russia. Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

— The Associated Press