Forum in Vilnius: a look at Russian politics from the inside and from the outside

Gathered in the Lithuanian capital, civic activists from various regions of the Russian Federation, political emigrants and Western experts share their views on Putin’s Russia

Opening the VIII Forum of Free Russia, co-founder of the FSR Ivan Tyutrin said that almost 500 people from more than 50 Russian regions and 31 countries are present in the hall. At the same time, a map of the world was depicted on the backdrop behind the stage and cities whose inhabitants were present at the Forum.
Speaking with a welcoming speech, Garry Kasparov noted that the Vilnius Forum is “The only piece of free Russia where you can talk about important things.” A few days ago, Kasparov also mentioned that the VIII FSR opens on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall..
“And a few days ago, Vladimir Bukovsky, who had fought in recent years with the KGB reincarnation of the Soviet regime, died. When Bukovsky began his dissident path, the wall was erected, and then it seemed that it was forever. But the dissidents fought and they won, “Garry Kasparov said and offered to honor the memory of Vladimir Bukovsky with a minute of silence..
“For our and your freedom!”

Forum in Vilnius: a look at Russian politics from the inside and from the outside

Moderator of the section “Repressive practices of the Putin regime” Daniil Konstantinov began with the fact that the topic of human rights protection in Russia is becoming more and more relevant every year. Addressing a member of the section, Roman Popkov, he mentioned that it is generally accepted that at the beginning of the 2000s the regime was milder, vegetarian. Popkov, in turn, noted that alarming signals began to arrive even then. “Since 2002, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has joined the fight against the opposition, and the most perspicacious people, such as Politkovskaya and Kasparov, already then saw the evolution of the regime towards totalitarianism,” he recalled.
According to Roman Popkov, a serious obstacle to Russia’s movement towards totalitarianism is the lack of ideology of the Putin regime. “Nihilists, cynics, who have no inner fire, like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, came to power. But police practices are superior to what they had during the Brezhnev era, ”the former political prisoner is convinced.
Head of the Movement “For Human Rights” Lev Ponomarev stressed that he is against violent actions against government officials, but will continue to fight the regime. There is currently no full-fledged dictatorship in Russia, its formation is hindered by corruption in power, confrontation between different groups of influence.

Lev Ponomarev

“I have great hopes for young people,” Lev Ponomarev continued. – They are free people and are not afraid. They see that they are imprisoning someone, but continue their actions. And we, the elderly, must help them create conditions for the struggle. But the protest must be peaceful. “.
Another member of the section was Oleg Sentsov. Daniil Konstantinov thanked him for his words in support of Russian political prisoners. Sentsov greeted the Forum participants and said that he was ready to interact with the Russian opposition. “We have a common enemy – Putin. It can only be defeated from within Russia itself. And whoever is ready to interact with us, and who believes that Crimea is Ukraine, is our ally. Combine of death (security forces) – goes through all, without disassembling, Ukrainian or Russian. For our and your freedom! ”Said Oleg Sentsov.
Talking about the events of February and March 2014, when, as a result of the victory of the Maidan, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia, but in response Russia annexed Crimea, Sentsov stressed: “I am a pacifist, I am against violence in peacetime. But there are times when you need to show strength, to take fate into your own hands. “.
After the end of the discussion, the correspondent of the Russian Service of the Voice of America asked Lev Ponomarev to comment on the current situation with the All-Russian Movement For Human Rights, after the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in the first instance decided to liquidate the legal entity.
The head of the movement said that this decision will be appealed. “We, of course, want to keep the legal entity, but just in case we are preparing another option. The congress will take place on November 30 "For human rights", where delegates from all over the country will come, and we will adopt amendments to the charter, the need for which has accumulated since 2014 (the previous congress). And after that, let’s go to the appeal. But realizing that we are likely to lose this court, we are simultaneously creating a new all-Russian public organization, which is regulated by another package of legislation. And there will be two parallel organizations with the same people, but without a legal entity, while this is possible. We do not know how long we will exist … But we will strive to create a civil coalition of the movements that interacted with us, “Ponomarev explained..
On the eve of the opening of the VIII FSR, sad news came from Moscow – human rights activist Sergei Sharov-Delone, who participated in the work of the first Forums of Free Russia, has died. Lev Ponomarev noted that he was shocked by the death of his colleague: “He was a very talented, unique person. Of course, there is an entire human rights community that will replace him. But as a person who combined passion, high intelligence, education and the ability to abandon all his important work in order to save one person in some distant colony, this cannot be replaced, “said the head of the movement” For Human Rights “.
“The Soviet, KGB regime has never peacefully transformed”
Introducing the participants of the section “Has a“ New Political Era ”Begun in Russia?”, Its moderator Evgeny Kiselev noted that all of them, including himself, live and work outside of Russia. “It was not our choice, just in the current political situation we have no place at home,” the TV journalist emphasized. And before the discussion, Kiselev mentioned the protest actions of the past summer, which he asked the participants: “are we not being deceived, are we not passing off wishful thinking, saying that some tectonic shifts have begun in Russia. I personally don’t think so from my present Kiev far away, ”he expressed his opinion.

Forum in Vilnius: a look at Russian politics from the inside and from the outside

Coordinator of the activatica.org portal Evgeniya Chirikova said that over the past hundred years, there has never been such protest activity in Russia. “It’s a myth that you can’t beat Putin. In Yekaterinburg, a square was defended, not allowing to build a temple there. Similar actions were held in Moscow, where the Torfyanovka park was defended, in St. Petersburg, where the Malinovka park was defended. We are not talking about this, but we must shout about it. After all, it is very important for people who participate in protest actions, ”she said..
Garry Kasparov was more skeptical. In his opinion, over 20 years Russia has changed not just for the worse, it is a stable trend, and it does not matter whether totalitarianism has come in the country, or is it still tough authoritarianism. Kasparov agreed that the authorities sometimes make some indulgences, but without hard pressure on them, nothing will change in the country. Referring to the situation in the 1980s, he recalled that tough opposition to the Soviet Union from such world leaders as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, backed up by the demands of Soviet dissidents – primarily Bukovsky and Sakharov – led to the fall of the Soviet regime, not to make concessions to the Kremlin..
Garry Kasparov added that the examples cited by Evgenia Chirikova do indeed take place, but the authorities can stop any protests, and the regime is only threatened by a foreign policy defeat. “The Soviet, KGB regime has never peacefully transformed. Only under external pressure, “Kasparov emphasized..
Opposition Russian politician Ilya Ponomarev said that he admits the option of the disintegration of Russia, stressing: “For me this is a tragic option, but I see that such an opportunity is growing.” Ponomarev puts the blame for the current situation not only on the authorities, but also on the opposition, which cannot provide a unifying idea. And the authorities simply “privatize” the people’s initiatives, distorting their essence, as it happened with the “Immortal Regiment”. “There was an action in memory of the dead relatives, and now in some countries, including Ukraine, it has become a symbol of aggression,” he stated with regret..
“When you lose trust, it is very difficult to restore it.”
The topic of Russia’s return to PACE was discussed by the participants of the first section of this Forum. Roman Popkov said that he considers this a manifestation of weakness, “for which we will someday pay with new foreign policy adventures. This is not good news, “he said..
Lev Ponomarev, on the contrary, stressed that from the very beginning he was in favor of returning Russia to PACE. “Russia should be in all European structures as much as possible. But only if Russia fulfills certain conditions. There is no need to mythologize Putin, he is sick with messianism, it is important for him to participate in all international get-togethers. So let him participate, there is no need to be afraid of him. “.

Exiled Russian Globalists Gather in Vilnus For “Free Russia” Forum Dedicated to Subversion

The words of Oleg Sentsov: “As a Ukrainian, I categorically do not support this decision,” were greeted with applause from those present in the hall.
“Ukraine held a demarche, together with the Baltic states and Poland, leaving the PACE meeting hall,” Sentsov recalled. – I met with the PACE leadership in Strasbourg, they understand everything about the Putin regime, but they think that we need to talk with Russia. I do not agree with this “.
Later, this topic was at the center of the discussion of the participants in the section “New Munich. Has Putin played his bet on the fatigue of the collective West? “.
Former Prime Minister of Lithuania, now Member of the European Parliament Andrius Kubilius expressed a somewhat paradoxical thought: “On the one hand, Putin has obtained some interesting results. After the annexation of Crimea, NATO troops appeared in Lithuania, now we have the American military. And the population is pro-Western “.
Kubilius also announced the initiative to create a “Forum of Friends of Russia” to support those civic activists who take the positions of Western democracy. So far, this future project has two goals: the creation of a belt of successful states on the border of Russia – Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova. And the definition of a strategy for EU relations with Russia when it returns to the path of democratic development: “visa-free regime, trade preferences and so on, so that Russians understand what they are deprived of now,” the Lithuanian MEP explained.
German journalist and political commentator Boris Reitschuster believes that Germany is deeply “Putinized”, and especially the country’s elite. He cited the data of one sociological survey, according to which only 30% of Germans believe that Putin’s Russia poses a threat to the FRG, and 70% believe that the main challenge is the United States. “And this is in a country that owes everything to the Americans. And the point is not that Putin is a giant, but that we have dwarfs, against the background of which small Putin looks like a giant, “Boris Reitshuster emphasized..
Another speaker of this section is an American political scientist Jason Smart said his compatriots are losing interest in both Europe and Russia. The expert believes that this is bad: “we know how Putin threatens democracies”.
In a commentary for the Russian service of Voice of America, Smart assessed the Western leaders’ concessions to the Russian president: “I believe that Russia’s restoration in PACE and possible participation in the G8 summit will give Vladimir Putin additional points, but I would not call it a victory. He is simply taking advantage of the situation that has developed as a result of the weakening of international support for Ukraine. It was only a matter of time before Vladimir Putin was invited to the summit of world leaders. Legally, the heads of the G8 countries perceive the Russian president as an equal. But at the same time, they look at the Russian president with a grain of salt. When you lose trust, it is very difficult to restore it, ”says Jason Smart.
Prospects for the growth of civic activity in Russia, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the contradictory policy of Western countries towards Putin’s Russia will be discussed on the second day of the VIII Free Russia Forum.

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