We must confess that the idea for this article began this past Saturday in the form of a simple backpack poster worn by a demonstrator at the mass protest in Moscow on Avenue Akademika Sakharova. Thanks to inspiration coming from a poster that in itself was by no means the largest or most colourful in view, yet was very funny!
We’ll be content to allow the United Russia party to claim that 4 + 9 = 49%. Instead, we’ll work in the realm of numbers by 3 and here are three indicators showing why we believe that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will stay the course and push on towards his presidential election in March.
#3: During the Cold War it was common for the Soviets to shoot off a missile once in a while, usually well timed, to rattle cages and nerves in places like Washington, London and Berlin. So was it a surprise when last week Russia successfully tested two new Bulava intercontinental missiles? These are the missiles which have had a very hard time hitting targets in the past, but since some major tweaking this Spring had been accurate during trials in the month of June.
Fired from a submerged submarine in the Arctic White Sea, the 12-meter-long Bulava (called “Mace”) is planned as the primary weapon in Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. Each Bulava weighs 36.8 tonnes and has a travel distance of 8,000 kilometers with a payload of six to 10 nuclear warheads. The blast would be 100 times more deadly than the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.
Was it a pure scheduling coincidence? Perhaps, but one could easily argue that it should have been delayed in view of all the unrest going on inside Russia.
#2: The “Pearl Ensign” case. In July 2010 a St. Petersburg policeman roughed up several citizens during a “31” protest marking each month of 31 days for article 31 of the Constitution which gives citizens the right to protest, right to assemble without interference, and the right of free speech. Saint Petersburg police ensign Vadim Boiko administered beatings to several citizens, including punching one man in the head with his police truncheon and punching him again in the face once other officers arrived, and dragging another to a police bus by the hair.
The video earned Boiko the nickname “Pearl Ensign” because of his pearl bracelet. The video does not show every scene in the short 10 minute span that he terrorized citizens but is widely available on the internet.
Yesterday the court gave Ensign Boiko a suspended sentence. Some observers point to this as reassurance to police that the Putin government will grant police and Interior Ministry troops wide latitude in dealing with citizens who protest against the government.
#1: The jailing of opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov. Either the judge in the case has been living in a cave with no knowledge of outside events on the streets, else she was influenced by forces much higher in handing down her sentence. At the same time that St. Petersburg policeman Vadim Boiko was given a suspended sentence for beating citizens, Moscow judge Olga Borovkova, on Sunday–just a day after the largest protests in recent Russian history–sentenced Udaltsov to jail for the “crime” of conducting a one-man protest vigil outside Election Commission headquarters in October.
As explained so well by a Moscow times article, “Borovkova found Udaltsov guilty of resisting police during a one-man picket near the office of the Central Elections Commission in October. She dismissed the defense’s claim that such pickets require no permission from authorities, as well as video footage that showed Udaltsov offering no resistance during arrest.”
The judge sentenced him just after his release from jail on other charges. Udaltsov has been jailed 14 times in 2011 for protesting against the government. The Moscow Times newspaper reports that Russian bloggers have launched a campaign against the judge and a Facebook page has been created to organize a rally to call for his release.
Mendeleyev’s math 1 + 1 + 1 = 3: Given what we’re seeing on the ground, it may be that old Soviet era tactics are in play given the missile launches, suspended sentences for unruly police, and yet jail time for protest leaders.
The government may have seemed to loosen the reins for a short time in an effort to defuse the mass protests. But before the election in early 2012 look for Vladimir Putin to crack down and attempt to take control in order to assure a victory for himself in March. After that, protesters will be dealt with much for swiftly and harshly.