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The Daily Vertical: Not Quite A Russian Spring (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

It's not exactly a groundswell, but there's been a bit more dissent in the air than usual lately.

At his gala 85th birthday party earlier this month, Mikhail Gorbachev broke out in song -- in Ukrainian.

Among Gorbachev's honored guests was Andrei Makarevich, front man for the Russian rock band Mashina Vremya, whose concerts have been canceled for years due to his opposition to Russia's seizure of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas.

Last week, dozens of protesters were detained in Moscow and other cities at demonstrations in support of kidnapped Ukrainian air force pilot Nadia Savchenko.

They held Ukrainian flags and signs reading, "Forgive us, Nadia."

Meanwhile, curious advertising billboards with unauthorized political messages have also been turning up in the Russian capital.

At a downtown bus stop, one briefly appeared expressing support for Savchenko.

And on the anniversary of Josef Stalin's death earlier this month, billboards popped up in Moscow with images of the Soviet dictator proclaiming: this one died, and the current one will die as well.

Taken together, these things don't exactly add up to a Russian spring.

But they are significant nonetheless, only because they show that the minority of Russians who disagree with the Kremlin's bellicose course are no longer afraid to speak out.

They show that the fear and conformity that has engulfed Russian society for the past two years may be dissipating.

Speaking to the Daily Beast at his birthday celebration, Gorbachev said that "fear is very bad and very dangerous" and that Russia needs another round of "glasnost."

Wise words from the man who initiated the original version three decades ago.

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