Standing Up to Putin

Last week a young man stood up in a crowd during a speech by Russian "President" Dmitri Medvedev and shouted: "Why are you listening to him? He's violated the rights and freedoms of people and citizens!" Reuters and the Associated Press both picked up the story of how the brave young man brought Medvedev's speech to a standstill before being whisked away by the Kremlin's security thugs. YouTube has the video.

This was Roman Dobrokhotov, the rakishly handsome journalist, blogger, Moscow State Institute of International Relations student, and leader of the "We" movement. He was written up by the Other Russia opposition movement this past October after he blogged about being "approached and offered money in exchange for damaging information against well known public figures." He posted transcripts and recordings (Russian link) of the conversations. Dobrokhotov was also a prominent member of the brief presidential campaign of Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. In 2005, Dobrokhotov formed a group called "Walking without Putin" as a counterpoint to a group of Putin sycophants with a similar name.

By telephone from the police station after his arrest, Dobrokhotov stated: "When Medvedev started to speak about how great our constitution was I couldn't take it any longer. He is talking complete rubbish."

Opposition to the Putin regime begins to seem increasingly credible. The plunging ruble, FOREX reserves, and stock market washed away Putin's patina of invincibility. Last week my blog La Russophobe ran down a litany of setbacks the Kremlin has faced in recent days in its march towards the total elimination of dissent, and now Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov have created a "Solidarity" movement and openly proclaimed they intend to "dismantle Putin." It can't have escaped their notice that the Kremlin recently moved to abolish jury trials for those accused of sedition. Neither Kasparov nor Nemtsov have shown the inclination, much less the ability, to directly challenge Putin in any practical way, but the bluntness of their rhetoric shows they sense Putin's vulnerability.

The Kremlin is unlikely to take this confrontation lying down. How long before Mr. Dobrokhotov is found eligible for military service and spirited off in the night to unknown locations, as was fellow GenX opposition leader Oleg Kozlovsky, about whom I've previously written for Pajamas Media? Will he be as lucky as that? Many other Russian journalists have not been.  How long before he, or even Kasparov or Nemtsov for that matter, meet with foul play in the entryway of their apartment buildings?