April 15, 2007

Pushback Against Putin?

A funny thing happened on the way to the Tsar-ship. It looks like Vladimir Putin's supposedly enormous popularity in Russia has not kept him from developing a vocal opposition to his increasingly autocratic rule. Yesterday, thousands of Russians rallied against Putin's rule, and police arrested former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov for his role in leading the demonstration:

There were pensioners clutching single roses, students wearing jeans and a young man weaving through Moscow's anarchic traffic on a chopper bike.

Ranged against them were 9,000 riot police wielding truncheons and the might of the Russian state. And yet for one moment yesterday the demonstrators got the better of their opponents. After surging down the Boulevard Ring, the protesters began a defiant chant: 'Russia without Putin: Russia without Putin.' The sun burst on to a freezing Moscow morning. There was, it seemed, a whiff of revolution in the air.

'We don't agree, we don't agree,' the protesters chanted, waving flags and blocking the boulevard. 'This is our city', 'Revolution', 'Down with KGB informers'. A man held up a placard: 'I don't believe in Putin.' Others called for Russia's President to resign and go skiing.

After seven years in which he has restored Kremlin control over most areas of Russian life with scarcely a murmur of protest, Vladimir Putin was yesterday confronted with a genuine popular revolt. About 2,000 opposition demonstrators gathered in Pushkin Square, defying an official ban on their meeting and threats of arrest. It was the largest-ever anti-Putin rally in the Russian capital.

The man who was supposed to lead it, Garry Kasparov - Russia's former world chess champion - was detained as soon as he emerged from his taxi. Driven off to a Moscow court in a police van, he emerged defiant, during a break in proceedings, to tell about a dozen supporters that in its response to the protest 'the régime showed its true colours'. He was later fined 1,000 roubles - the equivalent of about £20 - and freed.

Perhaps at some point, if Kasparov succeeds in his efforts to restore democracy and the rule of law in Russia, they will call this the Rose Revolution. Those are the stakes, as Putin tries to finagle his way into an indeterminate term of rule by having his proxies in the Duma amend the constitution for those purposes. His police have arrested anyone who attempts to push back against the slow but certain efforts to return Russia to strongman rule.

Kasparov did not get lonely on the way to jail. Several dozen protestors also got arrested for demonstrating without a permit. Authorities in Moscow refused to give one on the basis that a pro-Putin children's group had booked the square for their own demonstration in favor of the government. One member of the Duma professed astonishment at the crackdown by city police, calling it "anti-constitutional", and an elderly woman said that she had not seen anything similar to this police response even during the Soviet era.

Why such a harsh reaction? The Kremlin has become paranoid about the popular uprisings in Ukraine and in Georgia. They see some vulnerability to the same kind of pro-democracy, pro-Western impulse among Russians, while at the same time working against the radical Islamist impulses in the Caucasus. Instead of allowing normal opposition to express itself in a free and democratic society, the Putin regime has systematically stripped their political environment of any means of rational opposition -- and so they have to arrest everyone who speaks out against their rule.

This heavy-handed response will not go unnoticed. Putin has put himself in an all-or-nothing position, and he will find out shortly whether that gamble worked.


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Comments (9)

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 11:50 AM

Best of luck to the protesters.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 11:53 AM

Eh? It worked.

Because? There's no rules' change. And, putin, like Abner Dinnerjacket, has willing "hosts" among the nap-haired, lice infested KLEPTOMANIACS around the globe. With "fwends" the Saud's. The UN plokes. Fat Albert Gore. And, his "green idiots." Not really "useful idiots," because they have no intention of sitting in "the cheap seats."

If it wasn't for the Internet, you wouldn't see any of this stuff.

So, I credit the Internet with covering ALL.

Meanwhile, it's remaining assymetrical. We're not allowed to cut off the heads of snakes. (Though, Israel is experimenting with this, slowly. She also has a PA snake in jail. No signs of life from the hostage Shalit; but phony-baloney discussions about releasing lots of snakes. In return for a LIVING Shalit.) That's what's holding things up.

Not that condi, and company, isn't trying to get Israel to "release" first. But she's been cured of the "prematures."

While the global media has taken the boob tube to even new lows. (On the other hand? Even in all the tents, in ranges without toilets; you do see the "Dish" sticking up. You think it's just there to grab signals from CNN?)

If putin was really scared? He'd have killed Kasperov. The other side, to keep its edge, does murders all of the time.

We seem to hold back from terrorism, though. Which means? In the end, when the real fighting breaks out, we will suddenly gain the advantage. Just go ask the Amerian indians. No "southern rebellion" for them.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 11:59 AM

Several dozen protestors also got arrested for demonstrating without a permit. Authorities in Moscow refused to give one on the basis that a pro-Putin children's group had booked the square for their own demonstration in favor of the government.

And that, dear friends, is how it's done. Putin isn't denying anybody the right to free speech. It's just that (darn it!) somebody else applied for a permit for the same place, same time, and got in ahead of them. Tsk, tsk!

Oh, well. Better luck next time.

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 12:03 PM

Boris Yeltsin is still alive, isn't he? Wonder what he's up to these days.

Or Gorbachev.

I must admit that I'm breathing a sigh of relief now that the scorpion has finally shown its stinger, since I couldn't fathom that Putin would go quietly into the night once his term of office was over.

If any country was born, raised and brainwashed into the squalor that is communism, it is Russia. Be interesting to see if the Russians care enough about democracy to rise up and cast off the shackles being put in place by Putin. If they do, that will be another history lesson for us as we attempt to introduce the concepts of democracy and one man/one vote to the Middle East.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 2:11 PM

Is Putin the man GWB said (paraphrasing) "I knew he was okay, I looked into his soul." Wonder what his opinion of Putin is now. Putin seems to get some perverse pleasure in tweaking our nose whenever some important decision comes up in the UN Security Council. When he's not selling Iran state-of-the-art surface to air missles, and surface to ship missles, he's building them a nuclear plant at Natanz. If Iran and Israel duke it out, who do you think Putin would back. Putin has billions from Russias gigantic reserves of oil and natural gas. China economically has a huge trade surplus with us, we import most of our oil making the Saudi princes fantastically wealthy, we haven't sealed our borders, when will this country wake up? The two political parties in this country spend most of their time and energy beating up the other side. Is this the way it will always be? Are there any leaders out there with vision? Or are they all just political hacks?

Posted by Gwedd [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 5:27 PM


Putin will stay or go depending upon how the military sees the situation. Not so much the top brass, but the rank and file, and the battalion level commanders.

If Putin loses their support, then he's a goner. Right now, the Navy is in bad shape, the Army barely holding on and the rest of the airforce and rocket forces also on the edge. Pay is a big issue. They are behind in pay, they haven't the money to keep all the spare parts in the system, so that, when stuff breaks, it's hard to fix.

The Russian military is a proud part of the nation, but it is not stupid. It's willing to put up with a lot provided there is proof someone is trying to fix things. But, when that fails, they'll be looking around for the best deal.

Putin will stay as long as the military lets him. If you start seeing Russian tanks and infantry with the protesters, then you know he's finished.


Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 10:34 PM

Several years ago, the Lebanese protesters carried one red rose, each, when they were protesting against the Syrians' domination of Lebanese govt. They would give the rose to some Lebanese policeman, to show their non-violent and peaceful intentions, to entice the policemen to NOT shoot them as per Syrian orders, and it mostly worked.

Apparently the Russians heard about it - it made bigger news in Europe than it did in America - for some "odd" reason.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 10:47 PM

Posted by: Gwedd

No matter what else happens in Russia, the military will stay - and stay very strong.

You can bank on that.

Ezekial 38 centers on it, and has not been fulfilled, as of yet. The Middle East is dependent upon Russia for Ezekial 38 and 39, and the revelation of al-Mahdi.

The poor people of Russia, and the surrounding areas need a lot of prayers.

Posted by Grumpy Old Man [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 11:39 PM

Putin's pretty popular, the economy's doing better. Awfully heavy handed for a guy who isn't supposed to have many problems.