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“Russia Will Never Be The Same”


The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.

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Russia will never be the same after the day of 10 December 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Russia to join the biggest anti-government rallies since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

According to rough estimates, in Moscow alone the protest rally brought together 100,000-150,000 people. In St Petersburg, around 10,000 people expressed their indignation at the fake election results and the level of public discontent with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin’s “power vertical.”

Mass demonstrations took place in more than a hundred Russian cities, and the regime was thus faced a people that dared to state that “We exist.” This is what the popular masses chanted during the protest rallies. More than 17 million votes were stolen from the Russian people in favor of Putin’s party, United Russia. People have had enough.

It is important to note that the level of protest actions had nothing to do with any one particular political force or any particular Russian leader, nor with the parliamentary or non-parliamentary opposition. Neither them nor the Russian ruling elite in the Kremlin expected the protests to engage such big masses.

On 10 December 2011, the people of Russia organized themselves and proved to be a responsible society. They showed that they did not need any herdsman. The unfolding protests in Russia engaged people of various political views and of different social backgrounds. The protests engulfed both major cities and small villages throughout Russia,

The protest was not led by some identifiable cohort of politicians. Many of those politicians who regarded themselves as leaders of the parliamentary opposition were forced into a position where they no longer were able to ignore the popular sentiment.

The leaders of the parliamentary opposition dared to appear in public despite their role in staging the sham elections when they had agreed to run in the elections as representatives of political groups that the authorities had picked up selectively. This was why the protesters met several speakers with chants telling the speakers to “withdraw their parliamentary mandates.” Only after would the people trust them.

The protesters issued an ultimatum demanding that all political prisoners be released, including those detained immediately before the elections. They demanded that the results of the elections be revoked and an investigation be initiated into numerous cases of election fraud. They demanded the resignation of the Central Electoral Commission. They demanded new elections with the participation of all political forces.

Now it is up to us, the Russian people, to put pressure on Putin and his clique to step down. Yet we need your support and solidarity. The world should not make the mistake of thinking that the protests were allowed to go ahead because of Putin’s good will. The number of people coming out to the streets prevented the regime from using force against the people. At the same time, there were many cities where the protest rallies were smashed and where people were detained and beaten up.

In Moscow, one of the main organizers of the opposition rally, Sergey Udaltsov, was sentenced to another term of 15 days of administrative detention. In the city of Ryazan, Sergey Yezhov, an organizer of the protest rally in the city, was sentenced to 9 days of administrative detention. In the city of Ulyanovsk, the rally organizer was beaten up.

People were detained in Vladivostok, Kurgan, Bryansk, and St Petersburg. This shows that the Russian authorities still continue to apply the tactic of “divide et impera.” They are trying to let people vent their anger and reduce the level of protests.

At this moment, it is of paramount importance that you, all people of good will abroad, not take the picture of “unhindered protests” as evidence of Putin suddenly having adopted democratic principles. This is simply not the case. This is just another cover for the Kremlin’s plan to make Putin’s accession to his third term as president easier.

A similar atmosphere reigned in Chechnya a month before the referendum on the “Chechen constitution” held in 2003. Back then, a month had passed after gross human rights violations had significantly diminished, and people were not “disappeared” anymore. This situation continued for another two weeks until the necessary election results were obtained. After this, the reprisals resumed even harsher.

The Russian Central Electoral Commission has refused to revise the results of the Duma elections saying that there were “no grounds” for the complaints. Much depends now on your responsible reaction to the events in Russia. You must not ignore the voice of the Russian people. The world should not recognize the elections to the Russian State Duma as legitimate. This is the demand that the Russian people to you.

Oksana Chelysheva


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