Global Voices Online
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
On Nov. 17, the Russian Duma approved a bill that abolished minimum voter turnout (20 percent) for all elections in Russia. Today, president Vladimir Putin has signed it into law.
On Nov. 23, two young political activists - Ilya Yashin and Maria Gaidar - protested the imminent change by spending an hour and a half suspended on ropes from a Moscow bridge facing the Kremlin and flying a 10-meter banner, which said: "GIVE THE ELECTION BACK TO THE PEOPLE, BASTARDS!"
Yashin (LJ user yashin) and Gaidar (LJ user m-gaidar) were taken off the bridge by the emergency services, detained by the police and fined 500 rubles (about $20) each by the court.
LJ user 50x50 posted a photo report on the stunt protest; Very Russian provided a link to the video on RuTube.ru.
Gaidar - coordinator of the Da! ("Yes!") movement and daughter of former acting premier Yegor Gaidar - posted a brief note on the court's decision to fine her and Yashin, and here're some of the responses she got (RUS):
kreatiff: You should've dealt with them on the spot - would've cost you 200... and you'd have avoided having your driver's license punched ))))
prava3: You can start a business. 1,000 rubles for the right to hang over the Moscow River, 500 to the state, the rest to the businessman. :) A joke. In reality, all's well that ends well.
mendkovich: Well, you're lucky. Certain people had a criminal case opened against them for similar actions.
nah42: Oh great. [Spoiled, overfed] kids of the famous parents get a free ride. And for the ordinary mortals - jail. Everything's as always. [...]
domohozjayka: Do they all have to be sent to jail or what? In your anger and jealousy you forget that if you personally don't need the election, there are others who think differently.
harding1989: Right. Of course, the election would come back on its own because two members of the "golden youth" decided to hang over the river. Like waving a magic wand. The law is the same for everyone.
In the discussion above, two LJ users hint at another case, in which the components were the same and the outcome different: in May 2006, Olga Kudrina, a member of Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for climbing the Rossiya Hotel and hanging a banner saying "Putin, go away on your own" on the side facing the Kremlin.
Yashin - who heads the youth wing of the Yabloko Party - pointed out the injustice by writing an emotional open letter (RUS) to Sergei Podoprigorov, the judge who had sentenced Kudrina:
I'm not going to raise the morality side of the issue - there's no point, I'm sure. If it's so easy for you to ruin the young people's lives just because of their civil position, then calling to your conscience is a waste of time.
It's obvious that Judge Pugachev [who fined Yashin and Gaidar] made his decision on the basis of the law and common sense. But what was guiding you, Sergei Gennadievich, when you didn't think twice before sending people my age behind bars for a similar violation?
What was happening in your head when you were signing the verdict?
I can see one and only reason for your decision: you are nothing but a coward. Of course, they were calling you and demanding to jail Kudrina [...]. Of course, you were shaking over the verdict in your tiny [study]. Of course, you realized that by sending the guys to jail you'd commit a crime, but letting them go would deprive you of your warm chair.
I demand that you admit publicly that you were wrong and resign. People like you are a shame to Russia's judicial corps. And if you think that your Kremlin bosses would safe you from inevitable responsibility for your crime - don't count on that.
You'll get as much as you deserve.
Below are a few reactions (RUS):
arkashamos: Perhaps the reason is that you, Ilya, are the leader of the youth "Yabloko" and Masha Gaidar is Yegor Gaidar's daughter. If they sent you to jail for three years, there'd be lots of noise in Russia and the world. And who knows [...] that girl? Only her party comrades and Edichka Limonov, who, absolutely obviously, doesn't give a crap about those boys and girls that he had attracted [to his party].
yashin: This is what selective use of law is.
sorex: I agree. By the way, are you ready to [go to jail]?
newreft: Khodorkovsky has been sent to the colony for eight years. There was noise in Russia (meetings took place in almost all big cities, although not too many people attended). There was even more noise [outside Russia]. So what? Has it had any effect? It would have been the same with Ilya and Masha. So this is not the reason.