Sunday, April 22, 2007

Marches. Class B actors. Crazy, dangerous Russia.

A friend and a respected human rights specialist, journalist Oksana Chelysheva wrote in the Guardian a most interesting comment on the latest developments in Russia.

* People marching for freedom.

* Thousands of policemen and OMON men beating them up, hospitalising activists.

* Putin meeting with a class B actor Jean-Claude van Damme, instead of paying attention in public to what was taking place in Moscow. (What was he doing in Russia, anyway?!? Judoka-Putin is a fan of his, or what?)

* Putin crazy after the Orange revolution in Ukraine!

I have written about Chelysheva earlier, about her office and a newspaper in Nizhny Novgorod being raided, see here.

Things are getting grotesque there. But are the protesters really gaining power?

If the response (from Kremlin) is so huge and violent, I am beginning to think the forces for freedom are getting more and more substantial, day by day.


A big part of Oksana's text:

I want my daughter to live in the Russia that I love and admire. That's the Russia of great culture and beautiful nature. It is not Putin's Russia that has alienated the countries of the free world, while cherishing allies from Hamas, Syria and North Korea. I feel furious with the Kremlin's arrogant certainty that we are just a herd who need to have a shepherd. I have participated in the marches to feel and become free.

In Nizhny Novgorod on March 24 the authorities demonstrated their readiness to apply force against peaceful protesters. Police helicopters barraged the city. Armoured personnel carriers drove into the yard of a kindergarten. Some 20,000 heavily-armed soldiers and Omon servicemen from 10 regions of Russia set against possibly 1,000 protesters. There was no march but they stirred up people's anger.

In Moscow on April 14 the number of soldiers and Omon was less: some 9,000. But the level of the authorities' fear seemed far greater. They missed our marching column because they drew all their forces into Pushkinskaya Square and Tverskaya Street. They were so paranoid about another "orange" revolution that they focused all their attentions on blocking the way to Manezhnaya Square and the Kremlin ... And cleared our way towards Turgenev Square, the site of the authorised rally.

But when an animal is wounded, it becomes 10 times more dangerous. The Omon began to chase people and beat them up. Many were injured. I went to hospital after being injured by an Omon serviceman's kick to be told that I was the 54th protester to arrive there that day.

St Petersburg the following day was even more horrific. The authorities overrode an order restricting the Omon to threatening people with batons. A number of demonstrators were subsequently hospitalised.

What was President Putin doing that spring weekend? He left Moscow for St Petersburg while his "valorous" Omon were beating people in Moscow. He spent the day in the company of Jean-Claude Van Damme. The white marble of Van Damme's teeth looked even brighter against Putin's black shirt and pale face. It seems that Putin is really trying to cope with the deep psychological injury caused by the victory of the "orange" movement in Ukraine by demonstrating an absolute neglect of the basic norms of democracy.

(end of quote)

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