There's no other way out.
I admire Moscow residents, who go to the square instead of going on a picnic or a spa every Saturday. They are beaten, arrested, robbed, put in pre-trial detention on criminal charges, and they still resist. Yegor Zhukov, a 20-year-old student at the Higher School of Economics is accused of mass riots. Vice-principal of his institution comes to court to defend his student and prove that a peaceful protest action cannot qualify as a mass riot.
I'm not going to sit with a gloomy face at the window and sigh "it cannot happen in our country. Everyone spends summer vacations either in the country or on the beaches. Nobody wants to protest, and in general, no vice-principal would come to defend a student..." (although no vice-principal can do the same. It's true). On the contrary, I'm glad to see that people protest. Anyway, Moscow protests are another and, perhaps, the last proof that they are the only way out both for our and the neighbouring dictatorial state. This is already a cherry on a pie, which makes the idea of resistance complete and balanced.
Russia is a big country. Lots of people live there. There are enough heads to fill with nonsense. The conformists there had enough time and space to reason that it is necessary to hold a dialogue with the authorities; that barricades are not a method in the twenty-first century, when everyone has an iPhone and a mortgage; that first it is needed to reach the municipal deputies, then the city deputies, and then the Duma, and later the government can be legally replaced. And those who listened cherished the thought that the Kremlin would come down with fair elections. But the Kremlin cut them to size: well, Charlie Brown, here are your toy deputy's seats, have fun in your sandbox and fix the district benches. As soon as one believed in a civilized dialogue and fair elections and was so naive to nominate oneself to the Moscow City Duma, a punch in the nose was not long in coming.
And it turned out that protests were still the only way to make a loud statement about one's rights and responsibilities, to speak out about arbitrariness and forgeries, and to chant slogans against the dictatorship. This is what the authorities hear. And they are deaf to liberal whispering.
Moreover, the authorities do not need to listen to the rustling that is skilfully imitated by the liberal whispering, which is gently covered with the KGB coat. After all, it dictates all these texts. And then it pats on the head those who agree to whisper all this, and even to slander opposition members, calling them radicals and marginalists who strive for Everyone longs for a dialogue! Any dialogue is the start for changes. At least, changes in the government. But decades of walks along Zybitskaya and persistent mumbling "we stand for a dialogue, we are against radicals, the power is not afraid of protests, they are useless" are complete mental helplessness, which no KGB can disguise.
Because protests are the only thing the authorities are afraid of. They spend money on the riot police, judges, or free kebabs to lure potential activists. It's the third Saturday in a row when Moscow holds generous gastronomic festivals in the city centre with various concerts. Those who are not tempted by kebabs and music bands participate in the new rally. As a result, they are beaten and jailed. If you're lucky, you face 15-day arrest, if not - they will take you to a pre-trial detention centre on charges of mass disorders. And Muscovites take to the streets and squares for the third Saturday in a row. They have already forgotten about the Moscow City Duma elections and the banned candidates. But they remember themselves. They remember persons whose throats have been often successfully shut with a belyash (open-faced patty with meat filling) for almost two decades. They remember dignity that returns not after running ten kilometres, but when you face the asphalt being knocked down by police batons.
These guys have no more fear. And Putin is scared. That's why he is hiding in a bathyscaphe on the bottom of the sea. By the way, Lukashenka is much less fortunate in this sense. Belarus has no access to the sea. It's dangerous to dive into the swamp: there's a chance never to come afloat.
Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org