Actor convicted: outrage in Russia

Many Russians have reacted to the conviction of actor Pavel Ustinov with a wave of solidarity and new protests. Ustinov was sentenced to three years in prison in Russia for resisting arrest, even though he was talking on his phone when a member of the National Guard dislocated his shoulder during the arrest. Is Russia's civil society gaining newfound strength?

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Courage instead of indifference

In a commentary posted on Facebook and quoted by philosopher and journalist Kirill Martynow detects the beginnings of change in Russian society:

“What we are seeing now is the collapse of the social norm. For decades, the norm was that only fools or, conversely, the last cynics could stand up for human rights, while ordinary people had no business dealing with the subject. ... But what is happening now shows how quickly what is considered normal can change. Yesterday complete indifference, today a broad-based civilian fight against the terror. ... One day this will be the end of Russia's current political regime, which believes it is eternal. On that day we will wake up in a country where every conformist knows that it is now wrong to support authoritarianism.”

NV (UA) /

Russia's idols versus Putin

Even artists who are loyal to Putin are furious about Pavel Ustinov's conviction, Ivan Yakovyna stresses in Novoye Vremya:

“I have little doubt that the first impulse of Putin and his petty criminals was simply to punish these people. To deprive these freeloaders of their access to television, theatre and money. Simply to make it clear that any mutiny on this ship will be ruthlessly suppressed. But there are two problems. First, how to find substitutes for all these artists, comedians, musicians and singers? There are no others! Secondly, and this problem is more serious: ... They are true idols, leaders of public opinion, 'engineers of human souls', as they used to say in the Soviet Union.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

An avalanche of protests

Rzeczpospolita is also impressed:

“The support for the actor came like an avalanche. The director Konstantin Raikin (whose school Ustinov attended) called Anatoly Kucherena, the most famous lawyer in Russia (he is also Snowden's lawyer). ... Society recently used the same approach to rescue another wrongly convicted person from prison: the investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who faced charges over drugs that were planted on him by police officers. The journalist was acquitted and several generals of the Interior Ministry lost their posts.”

Wedomosti (RU) /

Broadbased solidarity enspires courage

Vedomosti is delighted that the case has elicited a show of solidarity from other people and not just Ustinov's colleagues:

“The first to react when disaster strikes are those who are close to the victim - their relatives and colleagues. But instead of Ustinov or Golunov it could have been anyone who was put at the mercy of the state machinery. ... Not every victim can count on loud and widespread support. Because often only the colleagues of the victim understand that she or he is completely at the mercy of the state power. What is happening now is the first step on the long path to a real civil society in this country. These are important steps in the right direction.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Even the Church senses the shifting wind

Commenting in Echo of Moscow Anton Orech is delighted that the ruling is being criticised even in the Church:

“Until now the Church had taken altruism and clerical virtue to the point of supporting any and every act of brutality on the part of the worldly authorities. ... Because for the Russian-Orthodox Church as for the Kremlin, the population is nothing other than a source of income. ... Isolated voices of protest among the clergy always looked somewhat strange, and a protesting cleric was considered an oddball. But clearly something is now hanging in the air that clears the heads and gets lazy limbs moving. You can call it a fad, or going with the flow. However I prefer it when it's trendy to support innocent sufferers, and not to collectively condemn them. May the wind blow in the direction of justice, and not toward despotism.”