Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Putin ‘Gravestones’ Popping Up All Over Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 23 – Animated by the sense that “Putin is dead for the citizens of Russia” and that there is a desperate need to come up with new ways to protest his totalitarianism, activists linked together by the Internet have erected gravestones of the Kremlin leader showing the date of his death as being 2019 in no fewer than seven Russian cities over the last six weeks.

            In two places, a group known as Agit Rossiya has taken responsibility. Medusa news agency journalists have now spoken with Grigory Kudryavtsev, the press secretary of this group who was arrested for ten days on false charges of putting up a Putin gravestone in St. Petersburg (meduza.io/feature/2019/04/22/v-gorodah-rossii-bolshe-mesyatsa-ustanavlivayut-nadgrobiya-putinu-kto-eto-delaet-i-v-chem-smysl-aktsii).

                Agit Rossiya, he says, was created by several activists who were not politically active until 2017 and who wanted to fine “a niche” no one else had occupied. Many didn’t and don’t know each other personally but are linked by the Internet and are animated by “a common desire to fight the dictatorship, totalitarianism and Putinist propaganda. 

            Before deciding to erect the Putin gravestones, Agit Rossiya activists distributed lists of “the gifts” Putin and Medvedev have given the Russian people – higher taxes, delayed pensions, and rising communal services.  The group’s members are committed to expanding their activity but are limited by official harassment.

            The first Putin gravestone appeared in Naberezhny Chelny, the second in Moscow, and the third in Berlin, Kudryavtsev says.  He adds that the gravestone idea emerged because Putin’s policies demonstrate that he is “dead” to the interests and concerns of the citizens of the Russian Federation.

            Because the group operates as a flashmob and because members rarely come into contact with each other or even know who is involved, it is very difficult for the authorities to stop.  And that is its attraction, the activist says.  The FSB can arrest street protesters, but it can hardly arrest all those who think Putin is “dead” to them.

            Their number is growing, and the number of Putin gravestones is thus likely to grow as well.

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