Vienna, March 11 – Arguing that the only way out for Russia is the complete overhaul of the system of power Vladimir Putin has put in place, leaders of Russia’s so-called “extra-systemic” opposition are circulating an 870-word petition on the Internet calling for the ouster of the from any position of power in the country.
The appeal, posted online yesterday, has already attacked more than 600 signatures, including both prominent opposition figures and ordinary Russians, at the site putinavotstavku.ru despite what appear to be denial of service attacks today on some opposition sites that point their visitors to that appeal which is still open for additional signers.
Among those behind this effort and whose names appear at the top of the list of those signing the appeal are Elena Bonner, Lev Ponomaryev, Vladimir Bukovsky, Garri Kasparov, Boris Nemtsov, Yevgeny Ikhlov, Yury Mukhin, Anatoly Baranov, Aleksandr Ryklin and Geydar Dzhemal.
Addressing the citizens of the Russian Federation, the appeal says that Russia’s current difficulties reflect “the practically unlimited power of a man with a doubtful reputation, who is not distinguished by talent or the necessary life and professional experience,” and his actions which have contributed to “a sharp degradation of all institutions of government administration.”
Many in the ruling “’elite’” and in the population at large feel a need for change. President Dmitry Medvedev’s “modernization” project is intended to play to those feelings, but the appeal says, it “bears a distinctly imitative character and serves a single goal”: the preservation of “the regime of authoritarian kleptocracy” under a more attractive cover.
No real positive change from the current disastrous situation or the implementation of “essential reforms [is] possible in Russia today as long as Putin has real power in the country.” And consequently, the appeal continues, he must be stripped of any access to “all levers of the administration of the state and society.”
The remainder of the appeal is devoted to a bill of particulars of what Putin has done over the past decade and to a warning of what could happen if he is not remove and what responsibilities those who are currently defending him have before the people and country of Russia.
The appeal asserts that Putin has left “the citizens [of Russia] without rights and in their overwhelming number poor,” and he has left the “country without either ideals or a future.” In short, he and “his oprichniki” have covered the face of Russia with “dirt” by promoting a kind of rule that does not care about “rights and freedoms” or “even about human life itself.”
Putin, the appeal goes on, has created “false and helpless imitations of political and social institutions, ranging from the bureaucratic phantom of ‘United Russia’ to the Nashi PutinJugend.” And the messages he has promoted through the media have transformed what was “one of the most educated peoples in the world into a spiritless and amoral crowd.”
“Having begun his rise with the epochal pronouncement that he would ‘drown in an outhouse’ [Chechen militants], Putin in a little less than 11 years has used this universal ‘instrument’ of administration of the country which has turned out to be especially effective in his relationships with political opponents and business competitors.”
All “political, social [and] economic” disagreements are “immediately suppressed: in the best case by administrative measures but at times by OMON nightsticks, criminal persecutions, physical force and even murder. Putin in fact has shown that he is prepared to use all available means to destroy his personal opponents.”
Putin has stolen or sold off all that can be stolen or sold off, leaving Russia and Russians impoverished. Moreover, he has contributed to the collapse of education and science, at a time when Moscow was earning enormous sums from the sale of oil, gas and other raw materials abroad.
As a result, the appeal says, “an entire decade was lost,” when such funds could have been used “for the modernization of the country and for structural transformations in the economy.” Now, as a result of the world economic crisis, one that the appeal notes is “far from over,” Russia does not have the same chance.
“Being the appointed successor of Yeltsin,” it goes on, “Putin not only could not correct the fatal errors committed by his predecessor and put out the Caucasus fires but instead was able through his own policy to intensify that problem to the point that it is capable of undermining the integrity of the country.”
Disasters flowing from Putin’s policies there have cost “tens of thousands of lives,” including but not limited to the people of the Caucasus, journalists, rights activists, and political opponents. And his failure to address the problems of Russia’s infrastructure has led to “technogenic catastrophes” which have carried off thousands more.
The full extent of Putin’s crimes against Russia are still not known, the appeal says, noting that “the campaign of Basayev in Daghestan, the explosions of the apartment houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk, and the ‘training exercise’ in Ryazan remain unresolved mysteries,” even though they are all obviously connected with “undertakings of the Putin regime.”
“The inability of Putin to engage in strategic thinking has not surprised anyone for a long time,” the authors of the appeal say. “He is not able to foresee how the world will look ten to fifteen years from now or to think seriously about what place in this changing world should and can Russia occupy.”
Putin “is not capable of assessing the real threats and risk for the country and that means he is not in a position to correctly plan the direction of possible movement or to define potential allies and opponents.” All that is shown, the appeal says, by “the shortsighted policy” he has pursued with regard to China and the eastern regions of the Russian Federation.
Instead, the appeal notes, Putin remains “maniacally” focused on the export of oil and gas and the profits that can bring him and his entourage, even as Russia’s position in the world has suffered and as “a significant part of the population” of the Russian Federation has fallen “below the poverty level.”
Putin’s move from the presidency to the prime ministership changed little, the appeal continues, except that because of the way his retention of power violates Russia’s basic law, he has “created an openly anti-constitutional system” that allows for his “lifetime rule over the country.”
“It is obvious,” the appeal says, “that Putin will never voluntary leave power in Russia.” But given what he has done and is doing to the country, his continuance in office is “fatally dangerous” for the Russian people. In sum, “this is a cross which Russian cannot bear any longer.”
Because popular anger is growing and because “the Putin group” feels the ground shifting under its feet, there is the tragic possibility that “at any moment” the regime could move from “targeted repression” to “the massive kinds,” something that could have the most serious consequences for all concerned.
The authors of the appeal then “warn the officers of law enforcement organs and force structures not to go against their own people and not to fulfill the criminal orders of the corrupt leaders when they send [these officers and other personnel] to kill for Putin, for Sechin, and for Deripaska.”
“Today,” the appeal concludes in language that highlights the anger and fears of its authors, “the nation-wide demand at meetings from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad must become the call ‘Putin Must Go!’” because “deliverance from Putinism is the necessary first step on the path toward a new and free Russia.”