Anti-corruption protests involving hundreds of people have been taking place all over Russia. One of the demands of the protesters is an investigation into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s alleged involvement in corruption schemes. The Russian authorities have described these protests as ‘unauthorised’. More than 1000 people have been arrested in Moscow according to OVDINFO, including opposition leader and presidential candidate, Alexei Navalny. Demonstrations were also held in Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Saint Petersburg, and several other cities, where arrests had also been reported.
See what Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian MP who now lives in exile in Ukraine, has to say about the protests. He appeared live on the Sunday Show, 26th March 2017.
We didn't expect there would be protests all over the country and that they would last that long.
You see, I told you that Maidan in Russia is possible, and you never believed me.
Are you comparing this with Kyiv?
It is just the beginning, we have a huge country The protests were in 100 cities, which I am especially glad that the biggest process was not in Moscow, it was in St Petersburg. Not only there, but everywhere. It means that it is no longer Bolotnaya Square.The country is not sleeping, it is just waiting for the proper slogan, the proper idea to unite around. And of course, corruption is just one of the ideas.
As we saw before, the people were detained and they will be put in custody, some will be freed. What is the tactic and the logic of people like yourself?
I think that to change the situation, at the end of the day, we need to organise a political force. It's a systematic fight. It's not just a one-time job. Right now, I take this process as an educator, that the passion is there. That the desire for change is there. They are not happy with the way they are living. But so far they just haven't found this idea, this organisation, and I really hope that in Bolotnaya Square, [Alexei Navalny], who is doing this for his presidential campaign, will not not just use it for that one reason and just stop there.
Do you think that there is any cooperation? Because the weakest point of any opposition, in Ukraine, Belarus, or in Russia, occurs when it is not united and becomes fragmented, and that's what the regime always use against them.
I totally agree it's the biggest problem in Russia especially, but the problem of this disunity of the opposition is the lack of a unifying the idea. That's why I am talking about this.
People should not work around the leaders, but around the ideas. And as soon as this idea emerges, the whole situation in the country will change overnight.
Just the idea of innovation is something that people in the remote Russian places totally reject, because they don't want to end up in the situation like in the 90s.
This is a question about the people and about the Kremlin. What is the idea? Is it to get rid of them and substitute them with other people? That's a destructive idea, and that's why some people don't like it.
And I agree here, because I don't understand why the power, led by Navalny [Russian politician, Russian Opposition Coordination Council member], would be better than the power led by Putin. I don't see much of a difference between their slogans. And just the idea of innovation is something that people in the remote Russian places totally reject, because they don't want to end up in the situation like in the 90s. That's why the example of Ukraine is so important for Russians, because they say OK, you’ve changed one for another and what's the difference? It's a situation that's changing only for war, and not for the better. People want to be guaranteed that we will have a different society after the change, after the revolution. That's why they are looking for an idea, and I guarantee that, in the very near future, maybe a year from now, this idea will emerge and then the situation will change.
We know that the Russian state television did not show any of these protests. What would be the follow up? What are you going to do next week? You are here, you are taking care, you are worried about your country. What would be the signs to look for if this protest develops?
I will connect with my friends in Russia. I don't believe right now that Moscow is the main revolutionary force, despite the fact that it's the most liberal place in the country. I will track the situation in my home city of Novosibirsk which I think is the opposition capital of Russia right now and in the city of Yekaterinburg, where I have heard that there was the largest rally of all Russian cities, besides Moscow and St Petersburg.