Moscow Protests’ Rare Show of Defiance & Solidarity – A New Reality for Putin’s Russia?


A growing number of Russian entertainers on Tuesday joined in a rare show of defiance and solidarity, in support of an actor who they say was wrongfully convicted of resisting arrest during an anti-Kremlin rally, despite clear evidence in his favor, and sent to prison, The New York Times reports:

The protest demonstrated the power of social media, where the actors and others published their video statements in support of the defendant, Pavel Ustinov, spreading the word widely even as state-run television largely ignored the case. Publicly calling out injustice in the legal system is unusual in Russia and carries real risks; most of the actors speaking out work in government-sponsored theaters and appear in state-supported films.

A video of his arrest (above) prompted outrage. Replicating the slogan used by supporters of Ivan Golunov, a prominent Russian investigative reporter arrested in June, many actors posted “I/We are Pavel Ustinov” on their social networks, The Times adds:

Screenshot Youtube

Just as in the Golunov case, the show of support for Mr. Ustinov spread to some Kremlin-friendly commentators, including Tina Kandelaki, a television producer, and Maksim Galkin, a popular television host and comedian. …“This is a huge reputational blow,” Mr. Galkin said. “This is a blow to our courts, and not the first one,” he said, adding, “this is a blow to our government too.”

A working group established by Mikhail Khodorkovsky in August has penned an open letter calling for free and fair elections in Russia and an end to the criminal prosecution of activists. The letter has been endorsed by some 77 prominent signatories, including National Endowment for Democracy board member Anne Applebaum, Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Stanford University’s Larry Diamond.

The Russian government is increasingly impinging on the lives of people in the free world. Its representatives manipulate foreign elections, spread disinformation and propaganda, enlist hackers and troll factories, deploy spies, take hostages, and even commit murder, the signatories observe:

The regime annexes sovereign territory and conducts irresponsible nuclear missile testing, which has already led to casualties and degradation of the environment. Clearly, these actions are dangerous not only for Russian citizens but for the entire world. We call on anyone who cares about democracy and human rights to act immediately to stop the lawlessness of President Putin’s regime. Its actions are unacceptable — and indulgence or weakness with this regime constitutes a threat to democracy worldwide.

Vladimir Kara Murza (far right) with NED’s Carl Gershman (center) and Senator John McCain

The Moscow result should be an eye-opener for anyone who still believes the myth of the ruling party’s “popularity,” said Vladimir V. Kara-Murza, Vice President of the Free Russia Foundation.

Even in the absence of genuine alternative on the ballot, voters backed literally anyone — as long as it was not the candidate from United Russia. For better or worse, Russian politics is made in Moscow. It seems the capital has already rejected Putin’s party. It is only a matter of time before the country follows suit, he wrote for The Washington Post.

For both the Kremlin and the opposition, the September 8 vote was a precursor to the State Duma elections set for 2021. They’re also part of a political process overshadowed by the question of what will become of President Vladimir Putin at the end of his current term in 2024,  adds Robert Coalson, a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who covers Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.

Free Russia Foundation

“This was not a revolution,” political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told RFE/RL. “In my time I have seen many cases when people were saying that we ‘have woken up in a new country,’ but the country remained the same. But nonetheless, this was a very significant political result.”

What is behind the growing disaffection with Putin’s rule and the seeming rejuvenation of civil society and the opposition in Russia? Chatham House experts ask. Will the protests in Moscow be sustained past the 8 September elections that inspired them? How is public dissatisfaction with Russian power manifesting itself outside of the capital? Are there signs of unrest brewing not only at the grassroots level but also among a political elite? And to what extent does this episode mark a new political reality for Putin as he approaches his constitutionally imposed term limit in 2024?

  • List of signatories

Anne ApplebaumWashington Post Columnist and Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins university [and National Endowment for Democracy board member] 

Anders AslundSenior Fellow, Atlantic Council, author of Russia’s Crony Capitalism.

Guto Bebb, Member of Parliament for Aberconwy, the U.K.

Marieluise BeckFormer State Secretary, Center for Liberal Modernity, Germany

David BenioffCo-creator of the Game of Thrones, the U.S.

Wolf BiermannSinger and Writer, Germany

Arend Jan BoekestijnUtrecht University, former member of Dutch Parliament, the Netherlands

Max BootSenior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S.

Laurens Jan Brinkhorstformer Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Economic Affairs, The Netherlands

William Browder (author of Red Notice, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Movement, the U.K.

Tina BrownFounder and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media/Women in the World, the U.S.

Chris BryantMember of Parliament for Rhondda, the U.K.

John BrutonFormer Prime Minister, Ireland

Emmanuel CarrèreWriter, France

Bryan Cartledge, former British Ambassador to the U.S.S.R. and Hungary, the U.K.

Viorel Cibotaruformer Minister of Defense, Moldova

Irwin CotlerFormer Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Canada

Herta Däubler-GmelinFormer Minister of Justice, Germany

Martin Dewhirst, Russia expert, the U.K.

Larry Diamond (right), Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, the U.S.

Pr Hon. Gareth Evans AC QCformer Foreign Minister of Australia and President Emiritus of the International Crisis Group, Australia

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, former Minister of Defense and Minister of EconomicsGermany

Stephen Fryactor and writer, the U.K.

Ralf FuecksPublicist, Center for Liberal Modernity, Germany

Timothy Garton AshOxford University/Stanford University, the U.K.

Richard Harrington, Member of Parliament for Watford, the U.K.

Heidi HeitkampU.S. Senator (retired), the U.S.

Geoffrey HoskingEmeritus Professor of Russian History, University College London, the U.K.

Toomas Hendrik Ilvesformer President, Estonia

Gyde JensenMember of Parliament, Germany

Garry KasparovChairman of the Human Rights Foundation (NYC), Russia

Bob KerreyU.S. Senator (retired), the U.S.

Tinatin Khidasheliformer Minister of Defense, Georgia

Mikhail KhodorkovskyFounder of Open Russia, Russia

Stephen KinnockMember of Parliament for Aberavon, the U.K.

Petr Kolarformer Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the U.S. and Russia, the Czech Republic

Marcus KolgaPresident, Central and Eastern European Council, Canada

John KornblumFormer U.S. Ambassador to Germany, the U.S.

Patrick KlugmanAttorney at Law, Deputy Mayor of Paris, France

William KristolDirector, Defending Democracy Together, the U.S.

David J. Kramerformer Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, author of Dealing With Putin’s Regime.

Vytautas Landsbergis, former President, Lithuania

Dr Katrina Lantos SwettPresident, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, the U.S.

Sabine Leutheusser-SchnarrenbergerFormer Minister of Justice, Germany

Bernard-Henri LévyPhilosopher and Writer, France

Markus LoeningFormer Human Rights Commissioner, Germany

Jon Meacham, Rogers Chair in the American Presidency, Vanderbilt University, the U.S.

Markus MeckelForeign Minister in the last government of the GDR, Germany

Sarah Mendelsonformer U.S. Ambassador to the UN’s ECOSOC, the U.S.

Adam MichnikEditor in Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

David Morris, Member of Parliament for Morecambe and Lunesdale, the U.K.

Herta MüllerWriter and Nobel Prize Winner, Germany

Cem ÖzdemirMember of Parliament, Germany

Richard North Pattersonbestselling Novelist and Political Commentator, the U.S.

Andrew PercyMember of Parliament for Brigg and Goole, the U.K.

Baroness Piddingmember of the House of Lords, the U.K.

Rosen Plevnelievformer President, Bulgaria

Bob Raeformer Ontario Premier and Member of Parliament, Canada

Jamie RaskinMember of the House of Representatives, the U.S.

Malcolm RifkindFormer Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the U.K. 

Karl Roveformer Deputy Chief of Staff and Sr. Advisor to President George W. Bush, the U.S.

Manuel SarrazinMember of Parliament, Germany

Karl SchlögelProfessor of History, Germany

Karel SchwarzenbergVice-Chairman of the Foreign Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Czech Republic

Bob SeelyMember of Parliament for Isle of Wight, the U.K.

Mikhail ShishkinWriter, Switzerland/Russia

Radek SikorskiMember of the European Parliament, former Foreign Minister, Poland

Peter TatchellHuman Rights Campaigner and Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation, the U.K.

Astrid Thorsformer OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Finland

Laurence TribeHarvard University Law Professor, the U.S.

Lord David Trimble, former Minister of Northern Ireland, the U.K.

Tom TugendhatMember of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling, chair of the U.K. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, the U.K.

Sir Graham Watsonformer President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and former MEP, the U.K.

Dan WeissCo-creator of the Game of Thrones, the U.S.

James Whartonformer Member of Parliament for Stockton South, the U.K.

Dana WhiteChief Pentagon Spokesperson for Secretary James Mattis, the U.S.

John WhittingdaleMember of Parliament for Maldon, the U.K.

Sir Andrew Woodformer U.K. Ambassador to Russia, the U.K.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email