Photo taken from Marina Litvinovich's blog on Live Jounal.
A banner draped by Russian activists directly in front of Moscow’s Red Square, called on Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin to swap places with jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The stunt that took place several weeks ago captured the imagination of Russia’s blogosphere, in a country where freedom of expression is severely restricted.
The poster shows Khodorkovsky on the left in portrait-fashion imitating traditional official government photos, while on the right, Putin is behind bars. The pun, in Russian, ‘it’s time to change’ appears directly below. The banner was removed by Russian security officers half an hour after being hung in front on the Kremlin.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was at the helm of what was Russia’s biggest oil firm Yukos, until 2003 when he was jailed for embezzlement. Last December, he was sentenced on new charges extending his prison term through to 2017. Russian activists contend that Khodorkovsky was punished for funding anti-Putin opposition groups.
Although freedom of expression in Russia has always been heavily monitored by the state, this isn’t the first time Russian activists have displayed their disaffection with the government publicly.
Last year, members of the underground, opposition art group Voina (the Russian word for "war"), painted a huge penis on the Liteiny bridge in St. Petersburg. Last November, two of Voina's members Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev were jailed for turning over a police car. The pair were released on bail Thursday having been charged with hooliganism.
“One-time actions do not solve anything and reforms need to be organised and systematic in order to create real change”
Pilgrim67 is well known blogger in Russia. He lives in Chelyabinsk, located east of the Ural Mountains in Russia.
I did hear about the banner being posted in front of the Kremlin but I do not see this as an important act. I think the people who belong to that group are all a bunch of anarchists. One-time actions do not solve anything and reforms need to be organised and systematic in order to create real change.
Russians do not really react to someone posting a banner. What’s worse is that people here don’t really identify with Khodorkovsky. What is true, however, is that freedom of speech is limited”.
Post written in collaboration with Ostap Karmodi.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean we want to see Khodorkovsky in the Kremlin, but it does mean we want to see Putin in jail”
Roman Dobrokhotov is an outspoken Russian activist. He helped hang the Khodorkovsky banner.
There aren’t lots of ways to make yourself heard in Russia today. The media is censored and demonstrations are dispersed by the police. The idea was to do something visual. It was quite difficult to prepare without the police noticing. We had already tried doing this once before. In order to plan last year, we only had face-to-face conversations or encrypted Skype voice calls. Despite being really careful, we were intercepted by police 15 minutes before we were able to hang the banner.
This time, we managed to circumvent police by hanging it from a bridge directly in front of the Kremlin. The poster hung for 30 minutes before the Federal Protection Services took it down. It doesn’t necessarily mean we want to see Khodorkovsky in the Kremlin, but it does mean we want to see Putin in jail
I think this act had enormous success. The Russian blogosphere posted pictures all over the Internet. What was even more unexpected was that Russian-state TV [NTV] did a special story on us. This isn’t the kind of story that usually runs on state TV. Since a pro-Putin member of parliament had announced that more stringent laws were needed in order to punish acts like the one we did, they were able to use it as an excuse to talk about us”.