Boris Vishnevsky: Making everyone sit in the kitchen with their middle finger in their pocket isn’t going to work

3 February 2021

By Boris Vishnevsky, deputy in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group prize

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Echo Moskvy]

Today I spoke about this in the Legislative Assembly. I couldn’t not speak about this from the parliamentary tribune after the brutal dispersals of three peaceful demonstrations in a row.

Most of my speech was given, understandably, to a turned-off microphone–the moment I uttered the names Putin and Beglov.

But we know how to fight this and preserve the sound.

The video (and text) have been posted on my social media.

The speech itself is here:

“For more than a quarter of a century, laws have been passed in this hall. But in the last week and a half, Petersburg has ceased to be a zone of law and has become a zone of lawlessness. Brutal arrests of peaceful individuals, the beating of women, the use of tasers, the demonstrative degradation of citizens – in response to a peaceful protest, the right to which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The failure to give lawyers access, the hours-long detention of the blind and mothers of small children, the refusal to present deputies with information, and the ignoring of any specification of a legal offence – with a smirk: “If you don’t like it, you can complain.”

Both the concept of human rights and the concept of law ceased to exist.

Swift retaliatory justice, night trials (evidently they will soon be holding trials right in the police vans, organizing a “trial module”), nights spent by dozens of people in police vans, torturous conditions in police departments, where people were held for as long as 48 hours, bans on giving them food and water, confiscation of telephones…

This is Petersburg in the twenty-first century. Under President Putin and Governor Beglov.

A governor who is deafeningly silent for a week and then declares that reinforced security measures were taken when the mass peaceful protest began. In addition, he started repeating that the city had been seized by Outsiders days before the peaceful protests began.

All this is an obvious operation to frighten the public, to scare them into keeping silent and sitting quietly at home, in the kitchen, keeping their middle finger in their pocket.

But it won’t work.

Because the idea of changes is becoming predominant.

“We can’t go on living like this,” as people said in the late 1980s.

I want to remind everyone that at that time people went out on the streets not to replace Gorbachev with Yeltsin. But in order to change the political system. So the Communist Party would not have the leading role. So there would be a multi-party system and freedom of speech, honest elections and economic competition.

And the system did change – although since then, in the last two decades, it has began to return to the past in many ways.

Today, too, it responds to public protests only with repressions. The former low-ranking KGB officers and minor officials from the Leningrad Communist Party’s Executive Committee and Petersburg City Hall have no other way to talk to people.

The system neither does not wants to know one.

Moreover, it purposefully demonstrates that it is going to respond to protests only with force and the malicious and joyful degradation of human dignity. And with an even greater increase in the power of the irremovable leader.

The State doesn’t remember that a hundred years ago the process of strengthening autocracy, which had become hateful to the overwhelming majority, came to an end. And when it began to collapse, no one came to its defense.

Today’s protest is no longer simply for Navalny, whose sentence has as much to do with justice as Soloviev does with journalism or Zakharov with diplomacy. And it must be reversed, as should the other sentences against political prisoners.

The protest is no longer simply against Putin.

That could be dealt with by releasing Navalny and replacing Putin with a successor in another “castling” move.

This is a protest against the System.

And it is a protest of a generation against the System.

In this conflict, the System is always doomed. Changes are inevitable. They cannot be stopped. As they could not be three decades ago.”

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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