“It’s quite likely that this will be fatal for the regime and catastrophic for Russia”

It is worth noting that, in Moscow, the modern dissident movement was born in 1968, when four brave protesters went to Red Square and unfurled a banner denouncing the invasion of Prague. Those demonstrators are the heroes of, among other young Russians, the members of the punk band Pussy Riot. This is something that Putin also grasps very well. At the same time that he is planning his vengeful military operation against the new Ukrainian leadership, he has been cracking down harder on his opponents in Moscow. Alexey Navalny, who is best known for his well-publicized investigations into state corruption and for his role in anti-Kremlin demonstrations two years ago, has now been placed under house arrest. Navalny, who won twenty-seven per cent of the vote in a recent Moscow mayoral ballot, is barred from using the Internet, his principal means of communication and dissidence. The period of Olympic mercy has come to an end…

Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectations. These next days and weeks in Ukraine are bound to be frightening, and worse. There is not only the threat of widening Russian military force. The new Ukrainian leadership is worse than weak. It is unstable. It faces the burden of legitimacy. Yanukovych was spectacularly corrupt, and he opened fire on his own people. He was also elected to his office and brought low by an uprising, not the ballot; he made that point on Friday, in a press conference in Rostov on Don, in Russia, saying that he had never really been deposed. Ukraine has already experienced revolutionary disappointment. The Orange Revolution, in 2004, failed to establish stable democratic institutions and economic justice. This is one reason that Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister, newly released from prison, is not likely the future of Ukraine. How can Ukraine possibly move quickly to national elections, as it must to resolve the issue of legitimacy, while another country has troops on its territory?

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a liberal Russian politician who no longer holds office, said that the events were not only dangerous for Ukraine but ominous for Russia and the man behind them. “It’s quite likely that this will be fatal for the regime and catastrophic for Russia,” he told Slon.ru. “It just looks as if they have taken leave of their senses.”