It is getting more and more surreal here.
On Sunday, a bunch of Russian human rights people decided to have a walking tour of last weekend's "battlefields" - the sites where OMON attacked, beat up and detained participants of the April 14 Dissenters' March, random passerby and journalists.
OMON fighters were awaiting them: seven people got detained right away, before they had time to gather in a group, and then the police followed the rest around - fewer than 20 people total, about half of them journalists, according to Marina Litvinovich (RUS), who was there with her son (a 5-year-old, I guess).
Here's a quote:
We walked, smiling, talking to journalists, and a walkie-talkie in the hands of an OMON guy nearby was saying: "They are just walking. What shall we do with them?"
OMON was definitely confused.
Photos from this walk are here.
And another quote from Litvinovich:
It may seem funny, but it's absolutely not funny. It's paranoia and fear. The regime is completely inadequate if it fears people who are just strolling peacefully.
Anyway, let's walk around our city! We are the free people and we aren't scared.
Litvinovich wrote that the majority of OMON guys had been deployed to Trubnaya (Pipe) Square - and, believe it or not, soon after they were gone, some 200 square meters of the pavement sank in somewhere nearby. (Most likely, it happened because of subway construction there, but still.)
Here're a few comments, again from Litvinovich's LJ (RUS):
el_cambio: The earth can't hold them anymore.
rgkot: What would happen if OMON guys jumped all at once?
abstract2001 [Litvinovich]: The Earth would come off its orbit and the global freezing would begin.
ilarion: Here you go: the gravitational weapon :)
Later that day, around 9:30 pm, some 30 activists of Rossiya Molodaya (The Young Russia, an anti-opposition movement) gathered by the Ukrainian embassy to protest Victor Yushchenko's pro-West policies: according to Gazeta.ru (RUS), they drove out a cart with "the U.S. president" sitting in it and "Yushchenko" acting as a horse; they also lit up firecrackers and dropped anti-Yushchenko leaflets over the embassy's fence. Gazeta.ru reports that
As a result of the rally, one activist, one journalist and a passerby were detained.
And here's what Sergei Ivanov, the man who may or may not become Russia's next president, thinks of all these marches and Russia's "civil society" in general:
[...] Russia is a huge country and mentally, unfortunately, the majority of the population, as before, relies on the tsar. Our civil society is still weak. It can’t be strong because only 15 years have passed since it began to be created.
[...] the majority of the people are apolitical, and I don’t see anything terrible about this.
[...] Monopolism of state power is harmful and we don’t even need to discuss this. But in conditions of weak political culture, when demonstrations easily turn into fights, when they close down roads, this just arouses aversion among the apolitical population, for whom it’s not important what slogans people are going around with, it’s important for them to be able drive along the road, and the rest they couldn’t care less about. There is a thin line between political freedoms and extremism.
FT: What do you think about the marches that are due to happen this weekend?
MR IVANOV: I don’t even know about them, I don’t really follow them. I know they happen from time to time, where about 100 people take part in the march and 2,000 police guard them. I think too much attention is paid. The only aim of the organisers of the marches is to attract the attention of the media. Why do municipal authorities ban marches, but allow meetings? Say whatever you want. We have freedom of speech. This is a free country. Read our newspapers. They write such things, sometimes you could say it’s total garbage. But print what you want, say what you want. But as for the marches, which you asked about. Here you are, here’s a place. Stand there. For a week if you want. Shout there, like in Hyde Park - Speakers Corner. Go ahead. But if you insist that you want to close down all the traffic in the centre of Moscow, if the interests of 10m people don’t concern you at all, if you couldn’t care less about them…any authority would say no because the majority of people are against this. And this really is the case, and there is no politics in this. If you want to demonstrate your opinion of the authorities, to criticise them and complain, stand here and shout. But don’t block the traffic. This is the principal contradiction.