Monday, September 12, 2005

I could hear them from almost the other end of Bolshaya Bronnaya - the sound of a stadium. A tiny stadium.

The opposition must've learned how to be noisily unignorable, I thought. I had no idea, of course, that there were two different rallies over there at once - one for Khodorkovsky's freedom and the other for his imprisonment, two small crowds facing each other, separated by metal fences and the OMON giants.

The pro-Khodorkovsky folks were, as always, obscured by the journalists and their equipment. Their banners and posters were pointed at their opponents, not toward the passer-by, so the only way ordinary citizens could learn it was the opposition was by looking at the flags: the ubiquitous SPS (The Union of the Right Forces) and the orange ones with the dark-blue words 'Our Choice' (or something like that) on them. Only at the very end did a group of the opposition protesters moved over (or was allowed to by the police) to address the public.

The anti-Khodorkovsky crowd was the one that really stood out: teenage boys resembling soccer fans, dressed in identical white t-shirts with prison bars and the words "MBKh - to prison!" on them ("MBKh" is Khodorkovsky's initials: Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky). "MBKh - to prison!" was also printed on their banners. And boy, were they having fun, honking their asses off...

They didn't get bored or tired of all this soccerless honking until an hour and a half later - but then, when they were visibly bored and tired, no one would let them go, even when there was no opposition left on the other side, just the OMON guys, like some weird nannies, huge and intimidating, and no doubt familiar from encounters in a totally different setting, in the sometimes bloody chaos following soccer games...

When the fake anti-Khodorkovsky protesters were finally allowed to leave, they first of all took off their t-shirts - and became indistinguishable from the rest of the Muscovites right away, so quickly it was a little scary.

The most interesting thing about the rally was this: if it hadn't been for all the police, and OMON, and the mad honking of the soccer fans, the pro-Khodorkovsky rally would've gone virtually unnoticed. Why Putin is giving all the publicity to the people everyone considers his enemies is beyond me.

That's very nice of him, I think, though somewhat silly.


I did go to the McDonald's at some point - well, there seemed to be as many people in there as there were on the square, or even more...


Neither Channel 1 (ORT), nor NTV covered the rally on their evening news, which isn't surprising. I spoke with one of the Khodorkovsky sympathizers, a nice woman, and she said she really hoped EuroNews would have it - but isn't EuroNews somehow affiliated with RTR, another state-funded Russian channel?


More photos - later.

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