The protesters’ calm faces and their belief in the possibility of radical change is probably the best – and most undeserved – compliment for a regime like Putin’s. I imagine that at the G8 summit, when Putin’s envoy (ex-president and current prime minister Dmitry Medvedev) will be questioned about the ongoing protests and the subsequent crackdowns, he may point to the images of the Occupy Abay camp and argue that “it’s just like Occupy Wall Street”.
It’s hard to understand the strategy chosen by the Occupy Abay movement. It’s as if they’re protesting in a country that doesn’t have a political police department whose sole task is to single out opposition figures and neutralise them – either through mock trials or false charges like drug dealing. It’s as if the protest leaders – namely anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny and radical leftist Sergei Udaltsov – aren’t already serving a 15-day prison sentences, with a risk of them being extended. It’s as if last Sunday – when bloody clashes with riot police unfolded – never happened; as if people weren’t detained just for wearing a white band – the symbol of the protest movement. Surely, it’s impossible to imagine someone in the Zuccotti park movement being detained for a pin, a T-shirt or any other protest insignia?