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Free Rubles And A College Dean: Strategies For Rallying 'Anti-Maidan' Protesters


At 12 p.m. on a Saturday, many students would probably rather be sleeping than protesting.

So what could make two students from the Moscow State Academy of Water Transport join a rally marking the one-year anniversary of what Moscow organizers called the "Euromaidan coup"?

Apparently, a university dean.

A reporter seeking comment for the independent Dozhd TV channel happened upon a group of protesters from the pro-Putin Young Guard movement. Wearing white ponchos adorned with the hipsterfied image of Putin on the left breast and holding antiopposition signs, they certainly looked the part.​

Here are the more illuminating parts of what two of them told reporter Vladimir Romensky:

Romensky: Why did you decide to come out onto the street today?

Student 1: I was forced here.

Romensky: Why, who forced [you]?

Student 1: Him (glancing toward his friend).

Romensky: Why did you make him participate?

Student 2: Because I didn't want to come alone!

Romensky: Are you a Young Guard activist?

Student 2: No.

Student 1: They just gave us these flags.

Romensky: Why did you decide to come here? How did you know about this protest?

Student 2: The dean ordered it.

Romensky: What did the dean say?

Student 2: It was a directive from the rector -- five [volunteers] per group. So we were assembled [and] came here.

Romensky: Do you know what's written on your poster?

Student 2: A thief has to sit in prison.

Romensky: Whose photograph is on it?

Student 2: Looks like [Russian opposition leader Aleksei] Navalny, and the second I don't know.

Romensky: Do you feel like Navalny should be in prison?

Student 2: No, I don't feel that way.

Romensky: So why are you holding that poster?

Student 2: Because I have nowhere to put it.

Police officials said some 35,000 people came out for the downtown Moscow march, held under the slogan: "A year since Maidan. We won't forget! We won't forgive!"

And while many clearly felt strongly about the conflict in eastern Ukraine -- accusing the West of orchestrating a "coup" one year ago when former President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv following massive protests -- others appeared to have ulterior motives for joining the demonstration.

A representative of a trade union, who identified herself only as Irina, told RFE/RL's Russian Service the day before the demonstration that at least six people from each public union were expected to participate.

And advertisements appeared online earlier in the week, offering people money to participate in the march.

Organizers dismissed such calls as "provocations" and threatened legal action for reporting on them.

"Naturally, we have nothing to do with this," Valery Zaborovsky, the press secretary for the Antimaidan movement told RFE/RL's Russian Service.

Nonetheless, there were multiple reports of people lining up to collect promised payouts of between 200 and 300 rubles (between $3 and $5).

Grigory Tumanov, a reporter for the Kommersant daily, said a line of some 200 people had formed outside the House of Unions to collect 300 ruble payments.

And Natasha Zotova, a reporter for the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, tweeted an undercover video of herself collecting the 300 ruble payout.

-- Glenn Kates

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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