True Colors

13 June 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Russians Protest Corruption, Putin Arrests Them on Russia Day

Thousands of anti-corruption protesters filled the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and scores of other Russian cities yesterday, and the government of Vladimir Putin responded with riot police, batons, pepper spray and mass arrests. The authorities held a midnight trial for anti-Putin activist Alexei Navalny and gave him 30 days in jail for repeatedly violating the law on organizing public protests. He did 15 days for the same thing in March. These are the true colors of the Putin junta. That is how it marked Russia Day.

Reuters reported, "Moscow authorities had initially authorized a venue for Monday's protest away from the city center. But Navalny switched it to Tverskaya Street, Moscow's main avenue near the Kremlin. The General Prosecutor's Office had warned that a protest there would be illegal.

"The area of Tverskaya Street near where Navalny's supporters congregated was hosting an officially organized festival, with actors re-enacting periods of Russian history.

"Video footage showed a protester clambering onto a mock-up of a wartime sandbag fortification holding a poster calling Putin a liar, before being pulled to the ground by a cast member dressed as a World War Two Soviet soldier."

What is it the protesters don't like? "I want changes," wrote Mr. Navalny in a blog post last week. "I want to live in a modern democratic state and I want our taxes to be converted into roads, schools and hospitals, not into yachts, palaces and vineyards."

For someone about to spend a month in jail, he was rather blase about his fate. He tweeted, "30 days. Not only they robbed the whole country, but I'll miss Depeche Mode concert in Moscow because of them."

The current climate in Russian politics is heating up with the approach of a presidential election in March 2018. While Mr. Putin is well ahead in the polls, he would prefer not to face a serious challenge. Mr. Navalny and his supporters could prove to be difficult. For that reason, a court convicted him of embezzlement and suspended the sentence. Under Russian law, convicts can run for office. Yet, he has what American-Russian reporter Masha Gessen called a "strange kind of freedom."

The strangest thing about Alexey Navalny is that he is walking around Moscow, still. Here is what has happened to the other men who headlined the Russian protests in 2011 and 2012: Boris Nemtsov, the liberal, is dead, shot in view of the Kremlin in February of last year; Sergei Udaltsov, the radical leftist, is in jail, serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Russian government; Garry Kasparov, the chess champion who became a politician, is in exile, as are many others. Meanwhile, Navalny is living in Moscow and openly running several political projects... Since Navalny's prison sentence was aborted, he has continued to occupy a unique space in Russian society: he is a man so strong, or so dangerous, or so free -- or all of those things -- that the usual Kremlin tools cannot work against him.
Mr. Putin is a fine political tactician, though, and that may explain the situation. He wants to paint Mr. Navalny as a troublemaker, build him up just enough to make him a credible challenger, and then by hook or by crook, beat him in an election, shutting down the protests with what looks like a democratic decision.

The danger is, of course, that Mr. Navalny becomes too credible. If that occurs, the Nemtsov solution followed by martial law is not unlikely.

Russia Day marks the adoption of the 1992 constitution, the birthday of post-Soviet Russia. Sadly, too much of the Soviet era remains for it to be called a celebration.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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