“Brilliant green” as a poison in a rocking political boat? New stages of political debate in Russia
Various actions and events of the sociopolitical life in Russia differ from the previous situation:
Demonstration against corruption on March 26, 2017
Above all, it is clear that the growth in the spring has affected all shades of the social and political spectrum.
Thus, on March 26, people answered Alexander Navalny’s call to rally against corruption in numbers astonishing even the organizers; participants in large cities reached up 30,000, and several thousand in smaller cities. All over the country, the number of young people who participated was especially striking.
Fortunately, this time the arrests of numerous participants did not result in mass criminal prosecutions, as was the case after the Bolotnaja events.
Call for the march on April 2
This is also true in the case of the anonymous appeal on April 2 of this year to go out onto the streets. According to official and unofficial data, more than 30 people were detained at the center of Moscow, as they had violated public policy in accordance with an ‘elastic clause’, one that is flexible in its application through its vague formulation. A criminal case was opened against 25-year-old university lecturer Dimitri Bogatov, who was arrested and imprisoned for two months for allegedly issuing the public appeal over the Internet for a march on April 2. He now faces imprisonment for up to two years for calling for public unrest (Article 212.3 of the Criminal Code).
Call for rally on April 23
The outcome of the weak “Open Russia” movement, which attempted to repeat Navalny’s success on April 23 was similar. The movement “Open Russia”, under the patronage of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had called for a demonstration on April 29, 2017, with its strange slogan “I am fed up”. According to the police, about 250 people gathered in Moscow. Following this, the coordinator of “Open Russia”, Maria Boronova, was taken to the district police station “Kitai gorod” for a conversation.
Celebration on May 1st
And to the final act of all these quiet and loud public actions:
The May 1 demonstrations, which celebrate the day of labor on a spring day (somewhere in the already forgotten past, the international day of workers’ solidarity). Combined, they reach numbers of more than 100,000 in Moscow, and more than 200,000 in St. Petersburg. The processions were approved by the authorities. Governing of these proceedings was headed by representatives of the governmental party “United Russia” and the independent trade union federation of Russia “FNPR”. What was interesting is that not only “pseudo-party” such as “United Russia”, the Communist Party and the unions took part, but also nationalists, anarchists, monarchists of various forms, LGBT representatives and other informal groups and movements, also assembled an estimated 30,000 people in Saint Petersburg alone.
There were very few arrests. The authorities showed an atypical humanity and forbearance (modernity, tolerance) by the standards of recent years.
One may hope
With this background of visible growth of social-political movements and the recurring political interest of various social groups, ranging from the very rich to very poor, there is reason to rejoice and hope that the government will make a sensible change in its economic course in the interest of the population, and therefore also in terms of human rights.
Photo: Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, is pictured on a street after zelenka attack in Moscow. Source: Evgeny Feldman via Wikimedia Commons
Brilliant Green, or “Zelenka” as a weapon, Navalny nearly blinded in one eye
On the other hand, the dye called “Brilliant Green” (triphenylmethane, used in Eastern Europe among other things as an antiseptic, called “Zelenka”) was turned into an instrument of terror, a weapon of retaliation against some of those who expressed oppositional views.
Alexander Navalny was attacked twice with “Zelenka”, or Brilliant Green; the first time in Barnaul (a city in Siberia) on March 20 of this year, and for the second time at the entrance of the election office, on April 27 in Moscow.
As a result of the last attack, Navalny lost 80 per cent of his sight in one eye. Furthermore, the blogger Ilya Barlamov, who openly addresses various current issues to the public (including the attack against Navalny in Barnaul), was also doused with Zelenka on April 26 in Stavropol, where he wanted to film about a regional leading construction company.
Responding to the authorities’ reaction
In all of these cases, the responsible authorities have shown passivity; investigations are not carried out and criminal charges have not been filed, despite the fact that an 80% loss of vision is a serious bodily injury.
Of course, reputable government officials are not related to these incidents and do not support those using Zelenka as a weapon.
However, so far no one from the presidential administration, from the government, from the state Duma, or from the Federal Council of the Russian Federation has publicly opposed such an aggressive and injuring act. No one has called for the responsible individuals to be held accountable.
This gives political hooligans the feeling that they may do as they please. And this feeling can do much more harm than good in the rocking boat of politics than peaceful oppositional actions, even if they do not proclaim slogans that are not comfortable for the government.
The expert group of the ISHR Russia