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Russia: Pro-Putin Rally in Vladivostok Causes Controversy

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

Rallies in support of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – also known as Putings, a combination of the words “meeting” and “Putin” – took place in many Russian cities last weekend. One such Puting caused a scandal in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, which is renowned for its strong support of the opposition and for anti-Kremlin moods in general.

The February 18 pro-Putin rally - a Puting - in Vladivostok. Photo by Alexander Hitrov/LJ user alexhitrov, used with permission.

The February 18 pro-Putin rally – a Puting – in Vladivostok. Photo by Alexander Hitrov/LJ user alexhitrov, used with permission.

A local news portal VL.ru uploaded a video showing that the participants of the February 18 rally received money after the event. VL.ru reporters asked if the participants were satisfied with Putin’s policies and reforms. Respondents used various clichés, saying that Putin “raised Russia from its knees” and provided stability for the country.

Vladivostok's online community actively discussed the nature of the events and the fact that people had been brought to the rally on buses in an organized way. Apparently, someone had motivated, mobilized and gathered them. The turnout of 2,000 to 4,000 people is a very rare case for Vladivostok, where even the most popular anti-government protests could hardly count 500 people.

Lists of participants and payments at the February 18 pro-Putin rally in Vladivostok. Photo by Alexander Hitrov/LJ user alexhitrov, used with permission.

Lists of participants and payments at the February 18 pro-Putin rally in Vladivostok. Photo by Alexander Hitrov/LJ user alexhitrov, used with permission.

This case would have been forgotten fast if the discussion of it had not spread virally. The local authorities added fuel to the flames as well.

Regional trade unions had organized the rally, and they were the first to be blamed for handing out the money. Viktor Pinsky, head of the Primorsky Region's Federation of Trade Unions, said [ru] that the demonstration “brought together more than 4,000 people who are not indifferent to the fate of Russia, who trust Vladimir Putin and support his candidacy for the presidency.”

Trade unions said [ru] that all the media materials and videos available online were nothing but a provocation, and that the videos were fake and people were acting on them. That is why trade unions would like to initiate an investigation into the matter. PM Putin’s Chief of Staff in Vladivostok believes [ru] that the oppositional forces were outraged by the fact that 4,000 people showed up for the pro-Putin rally and were thus trying to sabotage the event.

Various bloggers, journalists and news organizations have provided images of the people who had lists of the participants and were handing out money (500 rubles = 16 USD). These images are widely available online: LiveJournal (LJ) user alexhitrov – a Vladivostok-based photographer Alexander Hitrov – posted a comprehensive photo report [ru] from the rally on his blog, and LJ user hajoff posted a few more images in the Vladivostok LJ community, here [ru].

Even if the trade unions claimed that people participated in this rally voluntarily, why would someone have lists of participants and cross the names out? LJ user temniykot wrote [ru]:

I've been to the rally. Haven't heard about or seen any “payments” – but it is true that people from regional enterprises were being brought in and marked as “was there/wasn't there,” and that people were being brought on buses from somewhere, and that the pensioners were being given jackets (and some were taking four [jackets per person]) […].

According to all reports, the event was well-organized: posters had been prepared and printed beforehand, people wore jackets with pro-Putin slogans on them, and organizers provided hot food, tea and a musical performance for the participants. It is obvious that Putin’s supporters had enough money for all this, but where does the funding come from? If it comes from the state budget, then this case should clearly be investigated. And this time, it should be investigated not in favor of the trade unions.

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

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