Saturday, November 29, 2014


The Power Vertical

Russia's Unlikely Rebels

Signs of dissent in Russia continues to come from the most unexpected quarters.

On January 31, police detained political activist Roman Dobrokhotov after he staged a silent protest in front of the Russian government headquarters in Moscow.

Dobrokhotov, the leader of the opposition group We, stood with several colleagues in front of the White House with their mouths taped shut and holding blank sheets of paper. He was charged with "provocative behavior" and -- despite the tape -- "public cursing."

He was one of dozens of opposition figures detained in the Russian capital following a series of protests dubbed the "Day of Dissent" by organizers.

But when Dobrokhotov's case was brought before Judge Aleksei Bondarev, something remarkable happened. Here's how the weekly "Novaya gazeta" described the proceedings:

First of all, the session on  February 3 lasted until late in the evening, and, as a rule, judges tend not stand on ceremony with political detainees. Second, the judge listened attentively to defense witnesses and said that since the police officers were an interested party, their testimony should not be trusted implicitly (ordinarily, the texts of judicial rulings repeat the police protocols almost word for word). Third, the judge entered into the record a videotape on which it is visible that the opposition figure had conducted himself decently, and recognized his right to free expression as protected by the European Convention. In the end, Aleksei Bondarev set aside the ruling of the Justice of the Peace and freed Roman Dobrokhotov in the courtroom. 'I do not know what will come of all this,' Bondarev said.

Somewhere, I hope the former judge Sergei Pashin -- who set the standard for judicial independence and fairness in Russian courts in the 1990s before being kicked off the bench -- is smiling.

And it isn't just in the courtroom where cracks in Russia's authoritarian structures are beginning to become manifest.

At a press conference on Monday, Igor Yurgens director of the Institute of Contemporary Development and a aide to Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev, said the following, according to a report in "The New York Times":

The social contract consisted of limiting of civil rights in exchange for economic well-being. At the current moment, economic well-being is shrinking. Correspondingly, civil rights should expand. It’s just simple logic.

Yurgens was speaking after his institute issued a report concluding, contrary to Kremlin claims, that the economic crisis in Russia "cannot be dismissed as an infection contracted from the West." The report said that "fundamental flaws in the structure of the country's economy and its underdeveloped financial system" as the cause of what it described as a "full-scale market crisis."

This blog has paid a lot of attention to machinations at the very top of Russia's power elite. We've been speculating about whether Medvedev's recent overtures -- like his meeting with "Novaya gazeta" editor Dmitry Muratov or his moves to scuttle a law broadening the definition of treason and espionage -- are signs of a thaw. We've been debating until we're blue in the face whether a split is emerging between Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's de facto ruler.

But we've also noticed another pattern that is hard to ignore.

The protests over a hike in auto-import tariffs brought people who would never have considered protesting before out on to the streets.

Anna Bukovskaya, an activist from the Kremlin youth group "Nashi," came forward to blow the whistle on how the authorities have been infiltrating and spying on opposition groups.

Military officers are openly opposing a proposed reform of the armed forces.

These, even when considered together with Judge Bondarev's ruling and Igor Yurgens's frank statements, don't necessarily constitute a trend. At least not yet.

But they do seem to suggest that Russians from various walks of life are beginning to lose their fear of dissent.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: dissent,dobrokhotov,judge,aleksey,bondarev,yurgens,roman,igor,Russia

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 13, 2009 20:51
Read more about Roman here:<br /><br />http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/standing-up-to-putin/<br /><br />It's a pity that we still see so many divisions within the opposition group, who should be rushing to support Roman and his group and yet are not. He's a highly charasimatic and dashing figure who could add much to the opposition camp that it currently lacks.<br /><br />There are plenty of signs of weakness on the part of the Kremlin and a massive opportunity for the opposition to score points. One can only pray that they will realize this golden moment.

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15:34 November 26, 2014

SIBERIAN AVIATION FOLLIES

So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014

MIKHAIL ZYGAR OF DOZHD-TV HONORED

12:33 November 26, 2014

NO MISTRAL, NO FRENCH WINE!

Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.

MEANWHILE, IN UKRAINE...

12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014

BAD NEWS AT SBERBANK

12:18 November 26, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST ESCAPES RUSSIA, SEEKS ASYLUM IN U.S.

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of Amurburg.ru, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.

MERKEL SAYS RUSSIA TRAMPLING ON INTERNATIONAL LAW

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)

UKRAINE SAYS MORE RUSSIAN MILITARY IN EAST

Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)

RUSSIA SAYS IT WON'T ANNEX ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA

By RFE/RL

Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.

 

19:16 November 21, 2014

POWER VERTICAL PODCAST: A YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or