Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Power Vertical

A Specter Is Haunting Russia

A protester holds a placard that reads "Maidan" outside a courthouse in Moscow on February 24.
A protester holds a placard that reads "Maidan" outside a courthouse in Moscow on February 24.
A crowd chants "Maidan! Maidan!" before riot police move in, arresting scores of demonstrators. Three people stand behind a makeshift barricade of burning tires waving Ukrainian flags and banging sticks against metal shields.

A redux of violence in Kyiv? Not quite. Both of these scenes took place in Russia.

The first was in Moscow today, where hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside a courthouse where defendants in the so-called "Bolotnaya case" were being sentenced for their roles in anti-Kremlin protests that turned violent in May 2012.

In addition to the Maidan chants, the crowd also shouted in Ukrainian "Bandu het" (Out with the gang!) and hurled insults at riot police, calling them by their Ukrainian name, "Berkut."

Among those detained were opposition leader and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny as well as Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

The second scene happened in St. Petersburg a day earlier, on February 23, and was the work of performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who earned international headlines in November for nailing his scrotum to Red Square to protest Russia's "police state."

A specter is haunting Russia -- the specter of Ukraine's Euromaidan.

The stunning and dizzying fall of Viktor Yanukovych's regime -- which the hapless Ukrainian ruler tried to model on Vladimir Putin's kleptocratic and authoritarian power vertical -- is inspiring Russia's opposition.

Pavel Durov, the iconoclastic founder of the popular social-networking site VKontakte, helped a pro-Maidan video called "Fear is not Real" to go viral by republishing it on his page (a big h/t to Kevin Rothrock at Global Voices for flagging this.)

In a February 22 post on his Facebook page titled "Lessons of the Maidan," opposition figure Boris Nemtsov wrote that the conditions that led to Yanukovych's fall are all present in Russia. 

"The only difference is that Putin has more money and the Russian people are more patient. But their patience is not infinite," Nemtsov wrote.

"Will the Kremlin learn the lessons of the Maidan? Will they lie and steal less? Will they give citizens their freedom back? I doubt it very much. They will lie even more. They will seize and cling to power more. Place your bets on repression. Then comes the inevitable Russian Maidan."

Whether or not the inevitable Russian Maidan is on the way, Nemtsov is right to place his bets on repression, intimidation, and petty harassment in the near term.

Police detained more than 300 people on February 24, some outside Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky Court and some who were attempting to enter Manezh Square near the Kremlin for a rally in support of the Bolotnaya defendants (seven of whom received sentences ranging from 30 months to four years). 

And wearing the wrong colors, even by accident, can get you in trouble in Moscow.

Yegor Maksimov, a journalist with Dozhd TV, tweeted that he saw a man detained by the police for wearing a hat with the blue-and-yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. 

"Idiocy! A man in a blue-and-yellow hat, WHICH HAD NEW YORK INSCRIBED ON IT, has been detained," he wrote, adding that the police said to the man: "So you support Kyiv, do you? Come with us."

Tweets and social-network posts supportive of Ukraine's Euromaidan are also increasingly attracting the authorities' attention.

Yulia Archipova, a student at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, found this out the hard way. Russian TV and radio journalist Vladimir Solovyov used an entire program to deride her and other students for pro-Maidan posts.

As Kevin Rothrock wrote at Global Voices, Archipova, who holds a Russian passport, was "vilified (in absentia) for being a homosexual-loving Ukrainian citizen."

They used to say that when Moscow sneezes, Kyiv catches a cold. We'll soon see if this logic works in reverse. The Russian opposition seems emboldened by the Maidan and a spooked Kremlin is tightening the screws to prevent the revolutionary virus from spreading north.

As I've blogged in the past, the protest movements in Ukraine and Russia have been energized by the coming of age of a post-Soviet generation in both countries that yearns for a different kind of politics.

The difference is in Ukraine -- where the security services are less embedded in politics, the system is more pluralistic, and civil society is more developed -- people were willing to remain on the streets in large numbers even in the face of brutal police tactics and live ammunition. The more the authorities cracked down, the more emboldened and persistent the demonstrators became. The Ukrainian street simply wore the regime down.

The Russian street has not shown this kind of stamina and resolve. At least not yet.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Russian opposition,Bolotnaya case,Euromaidan

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 24, 2014 21:49
Nemtsov, Russian people aren’t "more patient" than Ukrainian.
They have different arrangement in history. Russia plundering
Ukraine for 300 years, now even more than in USSR, when
from Ukrainian budget Russia was stealing 30% - after
Russia already grabbed millions of Ukrainians and
all their industries evacuated during WW2 alone,
the influx East Ukraine Russians used as 5th
column are sabotaging Ukraine economy.
On another hand, Russia does plunder
all former republics, Eastern Europe,
Blockading and cheating West and
enslaving its own Russian people.
Still, stealing from other nations,
ruling Russia elite bribes middle
Russia and apparatus of violence
making the suffering Russians now
a minority - workers, elderly, veterans
and, debased to bumps, undesirables.
They as "patient" as Kemerovo workers,
crushed by Special Forces of new Empire.
Also Russians understand that Strategically
they have to be stable. Are they stable? Not!
Betraying former republics and East Europe,
Stealing everything, sabotaging, genociding,
Russia trying to be Feudal master over turn
serfs Russians, repopulate neighbor's lands,
while prosper Chauvinistic Russian majority.
It will not work. Patient non-Russian nations
aren't so patient, to die at the feet of Russia.
It is not NATO expand, it is Russia expands
vacuum of their hate and their victims anger.
If it'll repent, return everything, restore peace
and beneficial trade - a "patients" for tyranny
may lessen in Russia, which would not like it.
"Homosexual-loving Ukrainian citizen"? Who?
Archipova, ethnic Russian name with Russian
passport? Typical Russia-expand propaganda.
Before 1917 revolution the Russian occupiers
in Ukraine were bestially torturing, raping and
murdering Ukrainians just for using Ukrainian.
Now, Russia bandits kidnaping and trafficking
Ukrainian girls and children all over the World
For pornography and prostitution. Their choice
is tear apart their asses and throats and use on
them "bdsm" clips in stile of Russian "zhivodery"!
What an empire of paper-clipping flesh "pidarasts"!

by: Anonymous
February 24, 2014 22:53
anyone who even once time was in russia
knows very well that
Putin has the support of a large majority of the population
i speak about absolute MAJORITY !

wait for write history of lesson by ukraine
because history is not yet finished

If russian are doing fantastic olympics games
while ukrainians are fighting each other into the mud

there will be a "because"

There will be a difference between those two peoples

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
February 24, 2014 23:56
Russians in general are, on the one hand, more afraid of their government (too powerful, too rich), and on the other hand, often in more-or-less general agreement with its policies. Yes, Crimea should be a part of Russia again; yes, homosexuals are degenerates who shouldn't be allowed near children; yes, Ukrainians are at best fascists and at worst deluded nationalists if they think Europe will help them; etc. etc. etc.

So things won't change.

The only way I see for things to change in the near future is for Putin to die and be replaced by a weaker figure, someone more like Yanukovych. Then things might start happening. Otherwise...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 26, 2014 19:38
Otherwise... events will develop along the lines of a somewhat different scenario: Ukraine continues descending into a complete chaos - something that we see today from the news coming the Crimean Peninsula, from Kharkov, from Odessa - and particularly from the financial and economic front. The Ukrainian grivna continues depreciating against the dollar and the euro. Some US $ 3 bn dollars have already been withdrawn by the population from their bank accounts in February - this trend is likely to continue leading to a bank run and to the collapse of the banking system in the country.
At the same time, Russia has already stopped buying Ukrainian agricultural products, as a result of which significant chunks of the Ukrainian population will lose their income.
I am not even talking about the inability of those who came to "power" in Kiew to produce any sort of coherent policy - they will be squabbling with each other the same way they did between 2005 and 2010.
So, the next few months will be pretty turbulent in Ukraine - opening the way for a state failure to occure and for the South and the East to separate from Ukraine and to join Russia.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 27, 2014 08:23
Aha, interesting: yesterday I made the posting above and already this last night some "heavily armed individuals" occupied the major administrative buildings in Simferopol and put a Russian banner on the top.
It looks like the process of a state failure of Ukraine is underway, guys, and let's see what the de facto authorities in Kiew will be able to do about this situation.
I say, there are two scenarios: (a) they try to take over the buildings by violent means, which would mean the continuation of a war, and Russia would then certainly intervene to protect its sitizens (based on the law of the Russian Federation on the defense of compatriots living abroad);
Or (b) the Kiew de facto authorities try to proceed moderately and negotiate. In this latter case, all those in the South and the East of Ukraine who opposed the coup d'etat that occured in Kiew on the week-end will fell encouraged to form separate pro-Russian local authorities in Odessa, Kharkov, Donetsk etc etc etc.
Just as George W Bush would say: Democracy in action :_)).

by: Mamuka
February 25, 2014 00:29
I cant decide if Maidan would be good for Russia. As the author notes, the security services are much more entrenched in Russia and probably more effective. The result would be much bloodier and probably much more brief. Change will probably have to take a different form. And remember we have yet to see what the final outcome will be in Ukraina.
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 27, 2014 00:01
how ukrainians says
"Ukraine isn't russia"

how russian says
"thank god it isn't"

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
February 25, 2014 03:10
Big words and inspiring video, but the message might be a bit premature. Before the Russians start manning the barricades, they will probably wait to see how the Ukrainian experiment with mob-freedom works out. Even with the anti-Maidan Russian propaganda, you don’t have to be a prophet to envision all sorts of obstacles which the Ukrainians will face before they reach the land of milk and honey.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 26, 2014 19:44
Ukraine "reaching the land of milk and honey" :-)). Just look at Libya or Egypt - the countries that have gone through the process from 2010 on - 4 years later one can see where this sort of "democratic paradise" leads. The people of Ukraine will be sitting on a pile of ruins, whereas the leaders of Maidan will be assassinating each other the same way the "Free Syrian Army" is fighting today with their yeasterday allies, the Syrian jihadists.
So, good for Ukraine that Russia is so near: Putin has already alerted the Western and Southern military districts of the Russian military forces - just give some more time and they will come to liberate Ukraine from the hands of the inept US- and German-paid losers.
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 27, 2014 00:04

Does here anyone have any idea
how many Ukrainians live and work in russia ?


Milions !
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 28, 2014 10:57
Millions were deported and enslaved by Czars!
Tenth of millions with all Ukraine industries moved
East during WW2 - to win the war, in 1947 Russia put
Stalin under house arrest and refused return CIS, industries
and Ukrainians - enslaving, stealing and moving Russians
to Ukraine to breed in Ukrainian homes, as did Czars!
Many also were deported after WW2 to Siberia...
Now Russian occupiers give Russia excuse to invade!

by: Max
February 25, 2014 13:10
Yes, groups of hired bandits and thieves are totally legit freedom fighters. Hurting their own, then blaming the authorities, wound makeup during "interviews", attacking anti-maidown peaceful protesters, and already knowing how will they rig their "elections" are all very peaceful, fair and highly democratic means of achieving "freedom". And on top of that, the bias of this article is so obvious, that I do not even need to read other sources of information (which I always did, do and will do). However even with all such references, where such facts and samples were pulled from? "patience is not infinite"? - yes it is not infinite, and what they really cannot stand is those maidown's hired bandits (who, judging from this article decided to use even more hardcore false flag tactics, none of those "protesters" came independently - they all were purchased). Vast majority of Russian forums, social networks, and publication with both collective, media and individual opinions are strongly against those "revolutionaries". They don't want them, they don't need them. If anyone is corrupt, it is only the maidown, who took Merkel's money, so they would have the fuel to proceed in illegitimate and bloodstained conquest.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 25, 2014 20:23
Ukrainian protesters blocked even mild West Ukraine patriots-nationalists from participating in protests, to avoid provocations
and Max-like Russian propaganda.
Look ho is "bandits" on USA "News before Published" right
wing and Nazi internet media!
Russian 5th column published video of capturing in Ukraine
CIA spy. All riot police "Berkut" is ethnic Russian and talk
They show a beaten up Ukrainian Citizen, with Ukrainian
name, bleeding, while Russians show his identification card
of "Interpol" Police Association.
It's legitimate in whole Europe including Russia - it wouldn't surprise anybody if he also investigated cases of Russian
bandits kidnapping and trafficking girls and children and
torturing and raping them in the West.
Russian degenerates "Zhivoder" do tear their guts and throats
in Western and Russian internet and video movies and
bordellos - it would make angry Russian special forces, crushing Ukraine protests.

In Response

by: Max
February 26, 2014 01:49
"Ukrainian protesters blocked even mild West Ukraine patriots-nationalists from participating in protests, to avoid provocations" - false, otherwise what do those tridents (symbol of Ukrainian Neonazis) do all over the place and Molotov cocktails immolating police forces?
"and Max-like Russian propaganda." - hilarious considering the fact, I have not been in Russia throughout my entire life. Ever. Nor any of my lineage is Russian to begin with.
"Look ho is "bandits" on USA "News before Published" right wing and Nazi internet media!" - lolwut? I've not a clue what have you said.
"All riot police "Berkut" is ethnic Russian and talk Russian." - your source of information? Plus Russian and Ukrainian languages have barely a difference, making the claim dubious. They are about as close as Lithuanian and Latvian, if not more closely than that.
"They show a beaten up Ukrainian Citizen, with Ukrainian name, bleeding, while Russians show his identification card of "Interpol" Police Association" - source of information? And how do you know he is an Ukrainian citizen to begin with?
The rest of the text - have you tried writing sober?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 27, 2014 04:32
First the facts, look at:


You would call "Symbol f Ukrainian Neonazis" any non-Russian symbol, specially from Western Ukraine.
If Russians wouldn't follow Masson Leader "Bobrikov" a Russian-German breed, with a cross, shaped like Nazi Iron Cross, you would accuse Georgian of being Nazi symbol,
because they had such cross in their churches millennium before it was stolen by Russians-Prussians.

Protesters were defending Maidan from attacking them force,
not "immolating police forces" with "Molotov cocktail" (that is rather symbol of Russian Bolsheviks), but holding back illegal "Berkut" Cheushesku type "securitate", staffed with Russian Nazis, children of Masters of Golodomor, creating a neutral strip of burning "camp-fires" and stones, that prevented "Berkut" Russian assassins to butcher them.
When Russia got a choice - they killed about 100 Ukrainians.
Some were killed as being on black list by Russians...

(look live news of the events on Maidan, at the time, and radio coordinator orders)


Ukrainian and Russian are totally different, as Russian and Polish, by the way, Latvian and Lithuanian are also different.
It is you who have no facts, but slender a Nation to vanishing
by Nazi Russia - if you are not "Max-like of Russian propaganda", who else could you be? Close enough.
"Berkut" speak 100% Russian, even in spirit, mean and treacherous lying-plotting, as invading Russian pogromers!

Watch video, Russians themselves, making video, establish to surprise of some of them his Ukrainian name and Citizenship.
(while some of them probably deliberately targeted the victim by their previous black list - Russians everywhere, spying on us all and rendering vengeance - just at a glance, one they murdered was Georgian that looked-alike a bit as a Georgian-Ukrainian singer that won first prize, competing with Solovey,
some others were activists or reporters.)

Not only the video and article, published in USA to turn even
USA "right wing" against Ukraine, but a commentary of Russian proxy "Anonymous", appeared there in commentary:

{In politics there are no co-oincidences. If it happens you can be sure it was planned that way. FDR…
The NWO operatives are in panic mode, they know that their end is near, the russian should arrest all the americans ” diplomat” and send them back to the USA.}

I am always sober, since I was born, being sentenced and assassinated many times by Russia, for being non-Russian -
unsuccessfully - God in Heaven and in heart of men, some even honest Russians, prevented it or brought me back from dead...
They tried make me drunk sometime, as part of assassination attempts - I felt bad, sometimes almost dead, sometimes with
change in mood - but never drunk...
Unlike you - drunk from hate, yours or your masters, or just
for money...

In Response

by: Anonymous
February 27, 2014 15:50
for Konstantin from: Los Angeles

peaceful protesters :
but .... who are those in military uniform?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 28, 2014 16:27
I don't think you seriously believe the Russian propaganda,
even more so on "Youtube".
Even your President Putin dare publicly insult whole nations
and their rights to live in dignity in their lands, calling it Russian
territories and much worse...
Ukrainians were defending themselves on Maidan, putting camp-fire in land that prevented Russian paramilitary "Berkut"
from attacking. On another hand, "Berkut" was throwing
burning projectiles at the protesters and at "land-Mark" building on their left flank - trying put it on fire, so protesters would fall back, to save the building (it is Ukrainian city), while "Berkut" would brake through their force at protesters. Typical mean-spirited Russians (it was occupied by Russians "territory").
Look life news as it happened at the time of events...

by: Alex from: Baltimore, USA
February 25, 2014 17:24
While we all wait impatiently for the usual "relevant, cogent, thoughtful, and well-informed" comments from Konstantin, Jack, and Eugenio on this forum, just wanted to say how happy I was to see the victory of the Ukrainian people power revolution on February 22 and the latest failure of Putin's Ukrainian schemes. Ukraine has many more challenges ahead of it but at least it now has a real chance to break free of the dead hand of the Tsarist-Leninist-Stalinist past that still lies heavy on Russia. Thanks again to RFERL for consistently excellent reporting and analysis.
In Response

by: Max
February 26, 2014 01:56
"break free of the dead hand of the Tsarist-Leninist-Stalinist past that still lies heavy on Russia" - The last two are much weaker pasts than many may think - over time it was strongly diluted by Brezhnev and sold out by Gorbachev (and the finishing touch by Yeltsin), and if anything most of the Russians (evidently divided opinion in Ukraine, but largely supported South-Eastern parts) seem to reminisce the past of those "Stalinist" times, most notably the social welfare and ready availability of rather diverse employment possibilities.

by: Jack from: US
February 25, 2014 19:30
Ukraine should be in Africa. That's where the mob storms central square, the current thug-in-charge flees, the new thug takes over and the cycle repeats.
It will be unthinkable for Russia that some mob can storm Red Square and cause the utter collapse of the state. All that will happen, the mob will be rounded up and end up vacationing for few years in Siberia, at least those who will survive the welcome

by: Felipe AG
February 26, 2014 16:43
Well, I do admire the long standing efforts of the US to keep using RFE/RL- - as a propaganda tool. It´s very moving that after so many years spreading anti-Russian feelings in the Communist era, even now, under the democratically elected Vladimir Putin, those efforts are more intense than ever. True, in November/December 2011 they reached their very peak, when "Putin regime was about to collapse". Albeit nothing like that ever came close to happen, despite assurances from every pundit, Western coverage on Russia hasn´t shown any signs to change its mind. Never mind. The tone is, and has been, always the very same: bash Vladimir Putin all the way. In this case, the Bolotnaya one, the overall coverage, once again, is simply ridiculous. There are always the very same people and nearly the very same number of people protesting whatever Vladimir Putin does or does not. Let´s take a close look: Alexei Navalny, the Pussy Rioters, Boris Nemtsov, Gary Kasparov and the kind. People very much known and admired abroad but ignored at large back home. The ordinary Russian doesn´t give a s** to them. What kind of fear should have Vladimir Putin after all? The ousting of Yanukovich means a momentous backfire for the Kremlin. That´s ok, but Ukraine´s economy relies too heavily on the Russian market. And it will, wanting the protesters or not, for a very long time. The West cannot afford bailing Ukraine out forever just for the sake of "cooperation" and sowing of democratic seeds in the Ukrainian soil. The price tag is just too much. The EU has already enough of economic issues to tackle. An "Ukrainian economic integration" with EU is no more than mere wishful thinking. There are simply no grounds whatsoever for that. And, by the way, who is the most powerful candidate to win the contest in May? Yes, there she comes once again, Yulia Tymoshenko, someone the Kremlin has already made business with. Maybe she is even more reliable than the ostrich raiser Viktor Yanukovich. I think, and it´s just strong feeling I must confess, that in the very end of this Ukrainian turmoil Vladimir Putin still has the best chance to laugh last.

by: richard O'neill from: canada
March 01, 2014 04:39
Funny with all the talent here that no one comments on the greasy deposed tyrant and his effete son. The palace was abandoned and the paper trail dumped in the weak and pathetic... Now the world finally will know what the good citizens of a broken country have known all along. I really hoped they might find him in a rat hole or a culvert like they did with Saddam and Ghaddaffi. I guess he will just have to make a new life for himself in Russia, making poison vodka or cutting off peoples fingers......and the poor olis will have to find themselves a new stooge.....what a gang of evil incarnate...
Comments page of 2

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