Pro-Putin rally attracts over 12,000 in central Russia (VIDEO)

While Moscow is bracing itself for a third massive demonstration of “street” opposition, thousands of blue-collar workers have flocked to Ekaterinburg to support Russia’s prime minister and presidential hopeful Vladimir Putin.

­Despite the cold, factory workers from Ekaterinburg and neighboring regions arrived in droves by trains to take part in the action dubbed “Blue-Collar Urals”. Their placards read: “Ural hails stability!” and “Blue-collar, and proud of it.

The rally was called by employees of the “Uralvagonzavod” (UVZ) factory, which produces cargo railway buses and military equipment. The main man behind the rally is Igor Kholmanskikh, who came to the public’s attention in December after offering Vladimir Putin on live Q&A to take “his guys” to Moscow to help quell the opposition rallies.

This offer sparked outrage among Russian liberals, the most radical of whom slammed the words as “cattle talk.” Many a speech in Ekaterinburg on Saturday gave vent to anger at the insulting epithet.

We are not cattle. We work at a factory and are happy to work there,” an UVZ employee told Russia’s news website.

In a symbolic response, work mittens were to be collected in Ekaterinburg to be handed over to opposition leaders in Moscow. Earlier, the demonstrators had wanted to take a T90C tank, freshly assembled at the UVZ factory, to the rally, but that was not sanctioned.

The authorities say the rally wrapped up without any incident.  RIA Novosti news agency estimates over 12,000 participated.

This is a second massive rally to support Vladimir Putin recently. The previous one took place in Kemerovo Region in southern Siberia on January 24 and attracted over 6,000 people. The event was attended by the presidential hopeful himself.

Meanwhile, Moscow authorities have approved the route for the third opposition demonstration campaigning for fair elections. A Facebook page for the event shows over 23,000 people planning to attend. The demonstrators will continue their protest against the results of recent parliamentary poll to the State Duma, which gave another landslide victory to the United Russia party associated with PM Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.