Evgeny Legedin, a Russian left-wing activist living in Britain, writes about the Pussy Riot prosecutions.
The day is the 20 January 2012. It is a frosty and windy day in Moscow. Several girls in balaclavas and colourful dresses go to Red Square and sing a song:
“Revolt in Russia,
Putin pissed Himself!
Riot in Russia — go with the protest
Riot in Russia — Putin pissed himself
Riot in Russia — we are here, we are real
Riot in Russia — riot, riot, riot
Go on the street
Occupy Red Square
Show them the freedom
Of civic anger!”
Yes, it is cold in Russia now. The frost dramatises political life and Putin’s winter still lies over the country. Outside the windows there is an authoritarian dictatorship: it is scary, violent and punitive. Activists and journalists die; protesters are beaten up; an unacceptable political regime is in place. It cannot be improved; it can only been flushed down the cesspit of history.
The rigged Duma and presidential elections stirred up strong anti-Putin feelings but, unfortunately, Russians are greatly influenced by the cowardly opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Udaltsov and others. Their aim seems to be appeasement and the resolution of conflict. So Moscow protesters are led away from the Red Square and the Kremlin like a flock of sheep and all the while Putin navigates the ship of state practically without any deviation.
The feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot’s peaceful protest in Red Square and in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour contrasts painfully with the blind obedience of both left- and right-wing opposition leaders. When I first saw the video of “Putin pissed himself” I wrote on my blog: “These handful of daring and brave girls give an example to all Russia — where and how to protest: in the heart of the country — at Red Square — under the radical slogans.”
The Pussy Riot Punk Prayer “Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” is a slap across Putin’s face. In response, the leash has been taken off the authoritarian system and it shows its muzzle to the world.
Orchestrating the prosecution of the three arrested members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, Putin has tried to portray their “performance” as an act of blasphemy or “hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred” as the official charge stated. These three young women were imprisoned and tried in a Stalin-type show trial: they were denied food and sleep and spent up to ten hours in a glass cage in the courtroom. The puppet judge Marina Syrova granted the girls only two days to respond to an almost three thousand page indictment and refused almost every defence witness.
On 17 August, these city guerrillas were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment an unwise and miscalculated sentence. It harms Putin and will divide Russian society.
I had assumed that the authorities will take the obvious way out by giving them a two year suspended sentence. But Putin and the authorities are stupid and are digging their own grave.
Now I want to say a few words to you, Mr Cameron. How can a serious politician shake hands with a bloody and dishonest dictator? I am talking about your talks with Mr KGB a couple of weeks ago during the London Olympics while the Pussy Riot trial was going on.
Putin sheds skins and grows new ones like a rattle snake. He drops the old slogans and takes new one. He thinks that he is not responsible for what he has been doing since 1999. But before Putin changes his skin again, he has to answer for his crimes. For 13 years he has crushed opposition activists, persecuting and incarcerating them. I urge you Mr Cameron to demand that Mr Putin answers for the murder of 12 opposition activists, of 150 journalists including Anna Politkovskaya, of the several hundred victims of Nord-Ost and Beslan.
Putin has blood on his hands!