Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Edward Lucas launches into the Putin regime and, of course, the prosecution of those three young women with the Corner-unfriendly name (including some interesting details about what it was that they actually did: It turns out to have been rather less dramatic than is generally reported):
Now comes the prosecution of… a bunch of feminist performance artists made famous by their imprisonment and show trial. Their “crime” was to record a brief mime show at the altar of the cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They then added anti-Putin “music” (featuring scatological and blasphemous slogans) to suggest that they had actually held a concert there.
Many might find that in bad taste and would accept that police can arrest those using a holy place for political protest. But the three women on trial (who all deny involvement) have been in custody since March. They face up to seven years in prison on a charge of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility”. It all smacks of a grotesque official over-reaction and the growing and sinister influence of the Orthodox hierarchy…
Notice the addition of thoughtcrime: the hooliganism (already punishable, and, within reason, fair enough) is deemed more serious because of the opinions that is claimed were its motivation. That sort of thing couldn’t happen in the West, of course.
But back to Lucas:
. . . The regime is dropping even the pretence of liberalisation. Instead – as [this] trial exemplifies – it appeals to ignorance, prejudice and superstition. The Russian Orthodox Church, far from offering an alternative to the greed and bullying, complements it.
Indeed it is, and one thing surely to be noted: Because of the extent to which the Russian Orthodox Church has chosen to play a political (as opposed to a national or state) role, it cannot be altogether surprised if its public premises become the site of public protest. That might not justify the nature of this particular protest, but it ought to help put some of the clerical indignation, whether genuine or generated, in context. For more on what that church has been up to check out David Satter here, and, of course, on the Corner here.
In any event, read the whole of what Lucas has to say, not least for the discussion of the failure of the “reset” and for Lucas’s explanation as to why Putin is standing by Syria’s Assad. So far as the latter is concerned, I don’t buy it all: I think that at least part of what Putin is doing is playing the great power game (in other words, it’s not just about not wanting to encourage Russian internal dissent), but, as always with Edward Lucas, there’s plenty of food for thought.