With oil prices falling—and taking living standards with them—the people are finding ways to express their discontent
Yevgeny Dubinin had never been to a political protest. But he was so angry authorities had refused to register opposition candidates in the Moscow city council election that he couldn’t stay home. “They’re taking away people’s right to vote, telling them whom to vote for,” the 44-year-old business manager said on his way to a late-July demonstration on the capital’s main street, Tverskaya, that had been denied a permit by authorities. “If people don’t stand up for their last remaining right now,” he said, “they’ll lose everything else.”
Once Dubinin arrived, he managed to hold up his small homemade sign for only a few moments. “I heard a scream, and then I saw five or six men in uniforms and masks running toward me,” he recalls. “They took me by the arms and legs and dragged me to a bus with bars on the windows. I just managed to turn as they pushed me in, so instead of breaking my nose on the door frame, I just banged my head.”
The protest-arrest cycle, which began in July, has become a weekly routine in Moscow, even as escalating crackdowns by police have led to thousands of detentions. Some are facing five years or more in jail under “mass unrest” statutes, which are designed to quell riots, not the peaceful rallies the Kremlin’s opponents are mounting. In at least one case, police threatened to strip the parental rights of a couple who’d brought their toddler to a protest. Authorities have deployed thousands of riot police and phalanxes of investigators and hastily organized music and food festivals— including one with the unfortunate name Meat&Beat—to divert potential protesters.
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