Staunton, October 3 – Today, for the 13th Saturday in a row, Khabarovsk residents took to the streets to protest the Kremlin’s decision to arrest the governor they had elected and impose its own man in his stead. The signs they carried suggest that in contrast to protesters in Belarus, those in Khabarovsk are becoming increasingly radical.
Among the indications of that were the declarations on the posters they carried. Some said that “Putinism and fascism are synonyms.” Others declared that “Putinism and life are incompatible” and that “Putin is our evil.” Still others said that “the Anti-Christ is not in America. He is in the Kremlin” (sibreal.org/a/30871665.html).
Some of this increased radicalism, of course, may reflect that fewer people showed up and those who did in the rainy weather are the most committed; but much of it appears to signal that people in Khabarovsk are increasingly angry at distant Moscow and its failure to take their demands into account.
One person joked that it is time to “bury Putin’s band,” something they symbolically did near the Khabarovsk government headquarters. Also “buried” in this way were LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky who, residents say, has sold them out, and the acting governor Mikhail Degtyarev, Moscow’s replacement for their elected head Sergey Furgal.
And the marchers shouted slogans that the authorities attempted to drown out with music which may serve as an even stronger indication of radicalism: “Khabarovsk, come into the streets! Support Furgal,” “The case against [the former governor] is fabricated,” and “Vova [Putin], drink the tea!” – a clear reference to the Kremlin’s poisoning of Aleksey Navalny.
The Khabarovsk demonstrators continue to be peaceful and now, at the insistence of the authorities, wear masks against the coronavirus. But that is having an unintended consequence: They make it far more difficult for undercover police to identify who is taking part and thus subject to fines or other repressive measures.
The crowd this week also was energized by the self-immolation of Nizhny Novgorod journalist Irina Slavina. What could the powers that be have done to drive such a person to suicide, Khabarovsk residents said, adding that the regime doesn’t understand that it can’t drive everyone to that extreme step or arrest them.
Consequently, the three out of four Russians who oppose Putin, they continued, will eventually win out if they stay disciplined and united.