A diary of Russian political activist

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Putin playing hide-and-seek in Israel

Fie! Foe! Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I 'll grind his bones to make my bread.

The main message of the protest against Putin in Israel was quite clear. Putin is usurping the authority in Russia and the Russian Constitution for a long time. He is a true dictator like Lukashenko, and the only difference between them is that Putin has oil and gas to buy respect from the world leaders. As the Russian president is not a real president nor a legitimate one he has no right neither to open the monuments memorising struggle against fascism nor to visit Israel as official.

The place of the ceremony in Netanya was surrounded by police and Yasam (Special Patrol Unit of the Israel Police), so even a mouse couldn't reach the monument. I have no idea of how the veterans were chosen for the ceremony of opening the monument. We didn't see many of them and could count only 4 buses. Putin was late and the schedule of the whole day was changed. We were standing on the road leading to the ceremony with slogans: “Putin is dictator!”, “Freedom to the political prisoners of Russia!”, “Putin is not a president!” “Stop genocide in Syria!”, “Free Pussy Riot!”, “Russia without Putin!”, “Don't PUTin! PUT dictator OFF!” and so on. Finally we saw his cortège which looked like a cortège of Mafioso from a movie. The locals joined demonstration with enthusiasm. Some of them asked for our banners and held them.

And our white balloons proudly flew above the limousines with tinted glasses. The wind carried them directly to the monument where only selected society could stand. It was like a symbol of democratic revolution in Russia. Nowadays Putin isn't so eager to communicate with Russian people. May be he is ashamed of inconvenient questions that prevent him from rising the country from its knees.

The following events have proved this thesis.

After Netanya Putin had to go to Jerusalem where he had meetings with Netanyahu and Peres and where he was planning to spend night as well. Different groups of people protesting against Putin's visit to Israel were patiently waiting for him for about three hours under almost unbearable Israel sun. They were standing on the main crossroads which Putin had to pass by, as well as near the entrance to the residence of Netanyahu. But Putin outwitted all of them keeping in mind his extensive FSB practice. He preferred to get to Jerusalem by helicopter and to enter the residence of Netanyahu through the back door. The activists gathered near the main entrance to the residence where their brothers and sisters from Ethiopia were standing in picket for about two weeks. The Ethiopians turned to be helpful and showed plenty of solidarity providing chairs and tents from the sun. But after three more hours of waiting only a small group of activists could survive. This group of the most stubborn people was rewarded: after the total of 6 hours of waiting Putin finally appeared with his cortège from the main entrance of the building. He was warmly met by shouting “Putin, habaita!” (Putin, go home!) and “Won't forget! Won't forgive!” as well as by banners: “Putin, change the places with Khodorkovsky!”, “The third turn in jail!”, “If Putin is the president of Russia, then Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel!”, “31” (the number of the article in Russian Constitution which guarantees freedom of any demonstrations and which is totally demolished by Putin's regime) and others.

That was the only short audience the people from Russian speaking diaspora could get. The rest of the day neither the citizens of Jerusalem nor the activists from Netanya who got to Jerusalem right after Putin (though not so quickly indeed) managed to meet the cortège face to face. Not only the time of Putin's meetings was changed due to his late arrival. The route itself was changed from beginning to the end. But because of this chase after Putin the activist learned that most of locals were at one with them.

Near King David hotel a group of young lgbt-activists was picketing for several hours against humiliation of human rights and homophobic laws in Russia. They willingly took our leaflets. For the rest of the evening till late hours the group of activists from “Fair Vote for Russia (in Israel)” was running from the residence of Netanyahu to the residence of Peres, from the residence of Peres to the King David hotel and back to the residence of Peres. But the agents of FSB turned to be the most elusive one could ever imagine. The Israel police controlled all the roads and entrances so that there was no chance to come closer than on the distance of 100 meters to a place where Putin was expected to appear. Even the locals were not allowed to pass by in the direction of their houses. So when the motorcyclists escorting Putin appeared at last and the activists unrolled their banners in front of the main entrance to the hotel, the Israel special forces suddenly appeared and forced the activists to move on a distance of 400 meters from the hotel. The activists didn't intend to conflict with the police, besides the police had an order to make everything possible not to spoil appetite of Putin. As a result the activists obeyed that distressing though democratic law. And Putin was lucky to slip into the hotel at the very moment.

Only at 22:00 the activists went home. Though Putin wasn't eager to give them an audience they managed to protect dignity of the citizens of Israel at least.

P.S. In this blog I used to write about my own experience. But the latest article appeared due to Vladimir Boltovsky who had asked me to translate his report about the demonstrations against Putin during his visit to Israel. So a huge part of the article (and first of all everything concerning Netanya) is just my translation of a Russian language original report. Nevertheless I decided to publish this post here because I also took part in some of the events described in it (in the ones that happened in Jerusalem) and added a few passages about my own impressions to the original text. Anyway I am grateful to Vladimir for a good occasion to reanimate my blog which I didn't feel like updating for years.