In an emotional speech in Kiev on Sunday, former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky – recently released from 10 years in jail – told the Maidan “there is another Russia”, one opposed to military action in Ukraine. Russian writer and broadcaster Andrei Ostalski agrees but says it’s a small and embattled community.
On 2 March, one day after the Upper Chamber of the Russian parliament passed a motion allowing President Putin to use Russia’s armed forces anywhere on Ukrainian territory, a Muscovite decided to stage a one-man protest. He knew it was a rather risky affair as the streets were full of “patriotically” minded people rejoicing and celebrating the prospect of a quick victorious war against their neighbour.
Nevertheless, Alexei Sokirko found a place on the pavement on Nikolskaya Street and unfolded his “Stop the war” banner.
Russian law allows one-man pickets to be staged without prior permission or advance notification so the police didn’t do anything at first. In fact, they didn’t need to as Alexei immediately started getting harassed by angry passers-by. To begin with they called him “fascist” and “scum”. Then a woman spat at him. A few men started threatening him, and finally one of them snatched the banner from his hands and tore it up.
A scuffle followed – that was when the police intervened to arrest Alexei for violating public order. It was probably just as well, as he could have been seriously beaten. A woman then offered to fabricate a more serious charge against him. “I can testify that he was beating up a child,” she suggested, enthusiastically. The policemen decided not to take her up on it.
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