Putin’s Iron Fist strikes again
Yet again free speech in Russia is under attack. Another pro-democracy protest has been broken up, this time in the city of Nizhny Novgorod (Russia’s 4th largest). It followed a protest a few weeks back in St Petersberg when ten times as many Russians came out to send a clear message to Putin: stop trying to fix the next presidential election.
Its all part of a tour by former a Prime Minister and a Chess Master. The former Prime Minister is Mikhail Kasyanov, who’s attempt to register a party to stand against Putin’s hand picked successor got off to a bad start and isn’t getting any better.
Both the Nizhny and Petersberg events were entitled “March of the Dissenters”. Unfortunately it appears that the brutality at the first event reduced turnout at the latter. Hopefully this trend won’t continue when the next event happens, if it does happen.
What really annoys me about Russia is that we’ve let it become this nightmare state, and completely ignore it. Just because the Cold War is over, doesn’t mean to say that its a brilliant place all of a sudden. In fact, its gotten far worse in some respects. Only because of the Litvinenko Poisoning has the British populace taken any notice of what is going on in the geographically largest country in the world. And with that now behind us, we can go back to enjoying our gas fired central heating.
Yes, my friends, you can buy FairTrade ingredients all you want, but increasingly Britain relies on unfairtrade gas to cook our food. Russia uses bully-boy tactics to ensure compliance from neighbouring states, while mafia types ensure opposition in the country is silenced. And if Western Europe did protest at Russia’s lack of democracy, well, maybe we’d have our gas supply cut too. Whatever we do, we better do it soon, before Russia becomes an even bigger, nastier behemoth.
I have a lot of respect for those who speak out in Russia. I never thought twice about my decision not to travel to the Petersberg protests at the Russian G8 meeting. Sadly, no one felt able to criticise Putin at all during that event, either. The Russians set an agenda so right-wing even Bush must have felt outdone: solid hard-ball security with no talk of African poverty and only security-related issues surrounding either Climate Change or Peak Oil. But then, the G8 is a meeting between those who agree to a pact of non-criticism so as to ensure their combined continued success; hardly a friendship agreement, more a recognition of collective fate between enemies, but hey.
Its hard to see what can be done to force the Russians to consider human rights over political violence and crime. But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. There’s a few ‘open’ cases on Amnesty International’s website. There’s always writing to the Ambassador*. But perhaps the biggest thing we can do is to remain aware of our connections to Russia, the post-cold-war-reality of the country and the extent to which crime and corruption (not to mention an ex-KGB officer) run the country.
*13 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QX. Its a pain for protest organisers, by the way, as its a private road and thus a no-protest zone.