‘Rumblings in Russia’

Фот: Ольга Мальцева-AFP-Scanpix- LETA

“After the largest demonstrations in years erupted across the country on Sunday, the Kremlin is fighting back…

“Over the weekend, the mayor’s office warned people that protestors alone would bear the responsibility for any consequences of attending what they deemed an illegal demonstration. But despite those warnings and despite the fresh memory of some three dozen people being charged—many of whom did prison time—for a protest in May, 2012 that turned violent, thousands came out in Moscow.

Фото: Владислав Лоншако- Коммерсантъ

“The police estimated attendance at 8,000, but given officials’ predilection for artificially deflating the numbers of those gathered at such events to make them seem less of a threat, the number could easily have been double that. People clogged the length of Tverskaya Street, one of the city’s main drags. The iconic Pushkin Square was packed, and people clung to the lampposts, chanting

“Russia will be free!” …

Фото: Наиль Фаттахов-Znak.com

“What was most remarkable, though, was that the protests happened not just in protest-loving Moscow, but in over 90 cities across the country. People came out by the hundreds in Vladivostok, in the Far East; in Siberian Tomsk; in Krasnodar, in the south; and in Kaliningrad, a tiny Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania. They came out in cities like Chelyabinsk, in the Ural Mountains; southern Samara; and in Novosibirsk.
(‘Meduza’, an independent Russian news outlet, has a compelling photo essay here:
https://meduza.io/feature/2017/03/27/ot-peterburga-do-vladivostoka-vserossiyskaya-aktsiya-protesta-v-fotografiyah )

Фото: Дмитрий Серебряков-ТАСС-Scanpix-LETA

“This is significant because “the regions,” as everything outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg is known, are significantly more conservative and Putin-friendly than the two biggest cities. They are much poorer, much less developed, and people living there are often more dependent on the state to make their living. There is almost no independent media there, except what can be found online, and information critical of the government can be hard to come by. Going against the authorities can result in serious repercussions, both economically and in terms of personal safety, sometimes more so than in Moscow, where people have more money, political connections, and the savviness to solve their problems.

Фото: Юрий Мальцев-Reuters-Scanpix-LETA

“The fact that thousands and thousands in areas outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg came out despite this tremendous risk, to participate in rallies that were, with few exceptions, not permitted by the authorities, means a few things, and none of them are good for Putin…

Фото: Александр Уткин-AFP-Scanpix-LETA

“…It indicated that, despite the slight easing of the economic crisis in Russia and the conventional wisdom that Russians have adjusted to the slow sagging of their economy, an economic, populist message resonated enough to bring out what in Russia counts as a massive showing. Because the economy may not be at rock bottom anymore, but it is still bad. Since the economic crisis began in 2013, Russia’s GDP per capita has plummeted—from $15,500 to $9,000—and it is now approaching that of China’s. In 2013, it had been double China’s…

Фото: Николай Хижняк-Югополис

“…Despite the government’s efforts to provide a “patriotic”—that is, pro-government—education to young people, to sponsor various Kremlin youth groups, and to intimidate students in schools and universities into not attending such events, a huge number of those who came out Sunday were very, very young. The hero of a protest in Tomsk was a grade schooler who addressed the crowd. Many of those I spoke to in Moscow were younger than 21. Some were as young as 15, and, though they don’t remember the 2011 protests, they are old enough to have ideas about how they want to live.

“For a country that is so rich in natural resources, we are too poor,”

Andrei, 16, told me. And as the police made thousands of arrests across the country—there were over a thousand in Moscow alone—they arrested the minors, too…

Фото: Вадим Фролов

“The Kremlin is already fighting back. Kremlin TV didn’t show the protests at all, and on Monday morning Putin’s spokesman said that those minors had been promised money by some shady actors to be paid if they got themselves arrested… Meanwhile, the authorities immediately opened up a criminal investigation when a policeman who was attacked in Moscow landed in the hospital with a head trauma. All of this could send another few dozen protestors to jail for a long time, just like what happened after May, 2012.

Фото: Вадим Фролов

“But intimidation and jail sentences are a short-term fix. And Sunday showed that they have a very limited effect. Monday, as Moscow courts rushed to process the hundreds and hundreds of arrests, the Moscow opposition struggled to process what had happened. Like the protests that exploded on their streets five years ago, these were an unexpected breach in the façade of indifference and acceptance that the Kremlin had worked so hard to erect. Behind it, though, something had clearly changed.”

Фото: Александр Уткин-AFP-Scanpix-LETA

–‘What Russia’s Latest Protests Mean for Putin’,
Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic, March 27, 2017


Putin (Reuters)

‘Here’s a list of Putin critics who’ve ended up dead’

“The Washington DC medical examiner’s office has confirmed that former Russian press minister Mikhail Lesin died of “blunt force trauma to the head”. Lesin, who founded the English-language television network ‘Russia Today’ (‘RT’) was found dead in a Washington, DC, hotel room in November, 2015.

“The ‘Daily Beast’ reports that before his death, Lesin was considering making a deal with the FBI to protect himself from corruption charges.

Mikhail Lesin (Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof – The Daily Beast)

“For years, Lesin had been at the heart of political life in Russia and would have known a lot about the inner workings of the rich and powerful.

“Lesin isn’t the only person linked to Putin’s government that has died in violent or mysterious circumstances. Here are some of the other people Putin — a former lieutenant colonel of the KGB, and ex-head of the FSB — is suspected of assassinating:

Alexander Litvinenko (The Telegraph via Business Insider)

Alexander Litvinenko:
“Alexander Litvinenko was a former KGB agent who died three weeks after drinking a cup of tea that had been laced with deadly polonium-210, at a London hotel.

“A British inquiry found that Litvinenko was poisoned by FSB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were acting on orders that had “probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin.”

“Litvinenko was very critical of Putin, accusing him of, among other things, blowing up an apartment block and ordering the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

–‘Full Report of the Litvinenko Inquiry’:

Anna Politkovskaya (Mark Wilson – Getty Images)

Anna Politkovskaya:
“Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who was critical of Putin. In her book “Putin’s Russia”, she accused Putin of turning his country into a police state. She was murdered by contract killers who shot her at point blank range in the lift outside her flat.

“Five men were convicted of her murder, but the judge found that it was a contract killing, with $150,000 paid by “a person unknown”.

Natalia Estemirova:
“Natalia Estemirova was a journalist who sometimes worked with Politkovskaya.

“She specialised in uncovering human-rights abuses carried out by the Russian state in Chechnya.

“She was abducted from outside her home and later found in nearby woodland with gunshot wounds to her head. No one has been convicted of her murder.

IMAGE: Time Magazine

Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova:
“Human-rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov represented Politkovskaya and other journalists who had been critical of Putin.

“He was shot by a masked gunman near the Kremlin. Journalist Anastasia Baburova, who was walking with him, was also shot when she tried to help him.

Boris Nemtsov (Alex Wong – Getty Images)

Boris Nemtsov:
“Boris Nemtsov was a former deputy prime minister of Russia under Boris Yeltsin who went on to become a big critic of Putin — accusing him of being in the pay of oligarchs.

“He was shot four times in the back just yards from the Kremlin as he walked home from a restaurant. Despite Putin taking “personal control” of the investigation into Nemtsov’s murder, the killer has not been found.

IMAGE: New Statesman

Boris Berezovsky:
“Boris Berezovsky was a Russian oligarch who fled to Britain after he fell out with Putin. during his exile he threatened to bring down Putin by force. He was found dead at his Berkshire home in March 2013 in an apparent suicide, although an inquest into his death recorded an open verdict.

“Berezovsky was found dead inside a locked bathroom with a ligature around his neck. The coroner couldn’t explain how he had died.

“The British police had on several occasions investigated alleged assassination attempts against him.

“Paul Klebnikov:
“Paul Klebnikov was the chief editor of the Russian edition of Forbes. He had written about corruption and dug into the lives of wealthy Russians.

“He was killed in a drive-by shooting in an apparent contract killing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, G8 summit, June 18, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Matt Dunham-WPA Pool-Getty Images)

Sergei Yushenkov:
“Sergei Yushenkov was a Russian politician who was attempting to prove the Russian state was behind the bombing of an apartment block.

“He was killed in an assassination by a single shot to the chest just hours after his political organisation, Liberal Russia, had been recognised by the Justice Ministry as a party.”

–‘Here’s a list of Putin critics who’ve ended up dead’,
Jeremy Wilson, Business Insider, Mar.13, 2016


Young KGB agent Vladimir Putin

From 2007:

“In the six or seven years in which they interacted on a regular basis, Vladimir Putin’s police state and journalist Fatima Tlisova had a mostly one-way relationship.

“Ms. Tlisova’s food was poisoned (causing a nearly fatal case of kidney failure), her ribs were broken by assailants unknown, her teenage son was detained by drunken policemen for the crime of not being an ethnic Russian, and agents of the ‘Federal Security Services’ (FSB) forced her into a car, took her to a forest outside the city of Nalchik and extinguished cigarettes on every finger of her right hand,

“so that you can write better”,

as one of her tormentors informed her.

“Last year, the 41-year-old journalist decided she’d had enough. Along with her colleague Yuri Bagrov, she applied for, and was granted, asylum in the United States…”

–‘For the Sake of One Man’,
BRET STEPHENS, Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2007



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