Mr. Putin, welcome to the third term, and many more!
24 May, 2012

Moscow is meeting the old new Russian president with a series of protests of a totally refreshed form. Last fortnight or so, parts of the Moscow downtown have been reminding us of a typical holiday camp. Some two to five hundred people come here on regular basis to take a spot after a spot in the historic part of the capital city to peacefully camp there round the clock.

They are equipped with sleeping bags, field trip kitchen appliances and the

inevitable guitars. The scene resembles the erstwhile youth tourist hiking event of the bygone soviet times. Not that the ‘happy campers’ are left to their own devices – the fierce watchdogs of the Moscow police are incessantly and persistently on the guard at all times. 

This group of several hundred people has called their action ‘a regular pastime’. The ‘festivities’ began immediately after Vladimir Putin’s odious inauguration on the 7th of May and continue in a varying degree of a public protest against his political regime. As one of the leaders of this newborn stir Ilya Yashin of the Solidarnost Movement commented, the aim of this action was a release of political prisoners (the list of 39 people, made by the opposition parties), political reform and the new elections. These goals have not changed a lot since the first mass protests in the Russian capital in December of 2011. The participants in the movement are still fighting for the current regime’s active steps to be made towards democratization of the political system in Russia, which as they suppose is the only way for making a progress in all spheres of the Russian life. They are not satisfied with recent meek and superficial steps of Putin’s team towards liberalization of political life in the country and creation of real competition on every level of the existent political system.
The ranks of the protesters are also as diversified as it was five months ago – all of them are out there, starting with liberals and ending with socialists. And there are still no pronounced leaders. Among the brightest and the most active organizers of the protest actions are Sergei Udaltsov of  the Left Front and Alexei Navalny – a lawyer and a fervid fighter against the corruption in Russia. While the life of protesters is boiling in the heart of Moscow, the Kremlin keeps silence. Neither president Putin nor ex-president and current prime-minister Medvedev gave any comments on the events taking place in a close proximity of Kremlin and White House. Probably, they think that these events do not deserve their attention. Probably, they are confused and do not simply know what to say to the protesters and the wider public. We can only judge their attitude by the Moscow police actions and public comments of the lower rank officials.
The police is acting aggressively, obviously exceeding its authority over a group of peaceful citizens, getting together in the center of Moscow, where the freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution. Mass and chaotic arrests of the street protesters during the ‘festivities’ proves that these actions make a real thorn in the regime’s side. But authorities cannot do anything effective to eliminate this thorn, which makes excessive noise both in the Russian and foreign media. This is evidence that the authorities are short of ideas how to stop the uncontrolled democratic movement right in the heart of the country. The Russian Chief sanitary officer Gennady Onischenko has recently commented, that the political ‘festivities’ in Moscow was an exaggerated reaction to the appeal to actively pass time, walking in the city streets and boulvards. This seems just a bizarre comment of a second rate official, but in fact can be an important signal, remembering that the embargo on import commodities, including those on Georgian wine, had very often started with Mr. Onischenko’s declaration about the hazard of those products. Can this recent declaration end up in an embargo on political protest? Very probable! The State Duma, where the pro-Putin United Russia has the majority, has also initiated an update of the federal law about meetings. If approved by the Parliament, the new norm will substantially increase the amount of penalty in case of this law violation – up to 1,5 million rubles (approximately $50 000). As an average salary in Russia is slightly more than 20 000 rubles, or $700. A person deciding to participate in a meeting will risk almost six-year income.
F. Nietzsche is saying in his ‘The Will to Power’ that ‘you cannot become more helpful to something as persecuting it and baiting it by all the dogs. That’s exactly what the Russian regime is doing now. Probably the protest of several hundred people who still believe that meetings can change the political system would not have so much resonance, if not the inadequately harsh response of the authorities. The Russian wave of protest still comes up one day and rolls away another day. But today it is clear that the inauguration of Putin for the new six-year term has not put a full-stop to a series of protests.