Defying all public orders, protests continue in the streets of Moscow to show continued discontent and disapproval of the public to the inauguration of Vladimir Putin to his third term as President of the Russian Federation.
Following the inauguration, many Moscow residents took to the streets in organized protests. The newly sworn in incumbent government threatened to arrest anyone participating in demonstrations in and around the city. The warnings were not adhered to and many of the leaders of the new opposition, such as the prominent blogger Alexey Navalniy, and their supporters have been detained for 15 days and are awaiting charges. In all, for walking around the areas where protests are not licensed, over 150 people have been detained. In response, Russian writers chipped in to provide a reason as to how and why to organize a gathering without it serving as protest. Some of Russia’s cultural elites announced that they would be walking around the banned areas, associated with protests and rallying posts of all oppositions of all times, to meet with their readers and sign autographs. These “walkers” include Boris Akunin, Dmitriy Bikov, Eduard Uspenskiy, Ludmila Ulitskaya, and many more prominent Russian names. In total, the estimates range from 1000 participants estimated by the Moscow Police to 15,000 estimated by the “walkers.”
In response to these sporadic mass gatherings, Moscow officials dug up a number of the streets leading to the main areas currently overwhelmed by protestors. In an official statement, “this is all in line with scheduled maintenance and upgrades for the specified areas.” Additionally, all police have been pulled from the areas of the gathering, prompting city officials to warn Moscovites from participating as their “safety from provocation can not be guaranteed.” In Russian speak, the protestors will be provoked and are likely to be dispersed by members of the disbanded Nashi or other encouraged pro-Putin groups.
Despite the warnings and threats, protests are slowly popping up in suburbs of Moscow and in many other constituencies. Additionally, a number of the deputies of the State Duma, the Russian Parliament, have joined the protestors. This follows the delayed and almost derailed appointment of Dmitriy Medvedev as the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. During the vote, two minority parties left the chamber, thereby creating a situation where the membership present was not enough for the vote. After several hours, some deputies returned and a vote was cast. Those members, according to Communist party officials, “will be discovered and possibly removed from their posts as deputies.” Participation of State deputies in protests creates a number of legal problems for local and Kremlin officials, as these individuals are not subject to prosecution and they may create unwanted political difficulties for the various nationally funded departments.
While this may not be the beginning of the end for the Putin regime, it surely is the end of the business as usual attitude that existed before. Civil society demands to be respected and treated as legitimate citizens and not like cattle. Mr. Putin is being reminded that his power derives from the people who are willing to give it to him, and not many are.