Russia prepares for Victory Day

The day prior to the official “Victory Day” celebration usually isn’t so hectic but with continuing protests and new President Vladimir Putin moving into high gear immediately, Tuesday was anything but leisurely.

The day began with the traditional laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. President Putin was front and centre but Mr. Medvedev wasn’t to be found. That didn’t last long as Mr. Putin convened a meeting of the State Duma and within mere minutes the parliamentary delegates had approved his selection as Prime Minister by a vote of 299 to 144.

Immediately after the vote President Putin signed an executive order declaring that Mr. Medvedev was Russia’s Prime Minister and the two were off to the races, so to speak.

Meanwhile street protests were continuing across Moscow and other cities, albeit in smaller numbers. We’d been told that OMOH troops were arresting citizens who stopped on the plazas or streets just to chat. Apparently it was necessary to keep moving or risk going to jail.

Russian OMOH (riot) troops.

The street violence was nothing like Sunday and Monday but there were clashes citizens and police especially if the troops were intent on arresting someone just as an example to others…that will likely be a more frequent practice under the new president.

OMOH troops and police make another arrest. Brute force is the only technique these troops seem to understand.

We wanted to see how Alyona Popova and Mariya Perfileva were faring, especially as it had been raining for much of the morning hours and Alyona’s arm only recently has been taken out of a sling. It was broken in March when she was beaten by OMOH troops.

Happily, Alyona and Mariya had been sheltered from the rain by a large plastic canopy and later by kind umbrella holders and by that time the sun had arrived to bless the day.

Waving with her good hand, it’s nice to see the smile back.

In good spirits, Alyona flexed her muscles with the injured arm to show everyone that she was healing nicely and on schedule.

Alyona Popova showed her healed arm as Mariya Perfileva held the umbrella.

Earlier in the day OMOH troops had visited popular eateries where local journalists hang out and had been arresting any member of the media not wearing a special yellow jacket with the words пресс (press) on the front and back. Apparently they were serious.

OMOH troops arrested journalists who didn’t wear a bright yellow/orange jacket with the word пресс (press).

As nightfall arrived the police and OMOH troops seemed intent to clear the streets of any opposition in preparation for the 9 May Victory Day celebrations and parade.

Watch this video from Alyona’s phone: 2624515?player=html

Later in the evening some journalists were missing so everyone began texting and/or calling in locations in sort of a “buddy system.”

That worked well for some.

Sending out locations.

The mark of a good journalist is to find out which of your friends is in jail…again. Everybody text your location, well, that is if you still have control of your phone. (Photo from mobile phone of Kseniya Larina of Moscow Echo radio.)

Most were okay but several had been rounded up and placed in police vans. Oh the young, if they aren’t injured during the arrest they celebrate it as a victory, especially knowing that in most cases the longest they can be held is 24 hours but most are released at 3 hours.

Overnight arrests in Moscow.

The thin veneer is beginning to crack as today there appeared to be isolated instances in which some police troops refused to arrest citizens and when ordered to leave the scene, refused to leave the area. OMOH Interior Ministry troops however had no problems arresting citizens.

Moscow is a beautiful city at night, even late at night, say at 2am as you’re headed over to a police station to check on arrest records. Russia’s main church, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, is stunning at night!

Russian’s national Cathedral, Christ the Saviour.

Almost 3am Moscow time and reporters from TV “Rain” (Телеканал ДОЖДЬ) have discovered opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a local jail substation. Navalny was just named as one of the TIME 100 by Time magazine. That is him in the red jacket on the right, trying to talk officers into letting others go home.

He is an attorney but that may not do much good tonight. Besides, he has been arrested many times, including Monday, and will need to appear in court for those charges so in the minds of the police his record is far from spotless.

Moscow police substation: Alexei Navalny at right.

Who else might be in the police station? Taking a peek around the corner you’ll find Russia’s so-called version of Paris Hilton (we don’t agree, by the way), Kseniya Sobchak waiting for her turn to be booked and then released for a court date.

Kseniya is a problem for Vladimir Putin–her Dad was his mentor and both Putin and Medvedev worked for her father in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) and these families have remained friends.

Kseniya Sobchak, 3am Moscow jail on 9 May 2012.

So in the wee hours of the morning on 9 May, can we focus on the sacrifices of Russia’s generations from the past? That will be the subject of our next post because even though we might think that the older folk just want things to settle down (stability) and allow them their memories of victory, you may be surprised at what they seem to really think.

Soon we’ll be wishing our readers “С праздником Великой Победы!” (Happy Victory Day!).