Here is a very entertaining description of events with some excellent pictures by the journalist Lucian Kim. He reminds us that
Last week Vladimir Putin recalled the heroic defense of Moscow against Napoleon’s invading army in an effort to rally supporters and cast his opponents as foreign agents. But it’s too late. Putin has already lost the Russian capital.
Of course Russia’s vast police force still physically controls Moscow. Yet as Putin positions himself for a third term as president, he no longer commands the hearts and minds of Muscovites.The once and future President of Russia is given to comparing his opponents with foreign invaders and constantly accuses them of being in the West's pay, the implication being that Russians are not capable of political thinking or activity unless somebody from outside bribes them to do so. According to the various accounts, this is beginning to annoy people in Moscow (which any leader of Russia must hold or he might as well give up being leader) and in other places.
Meanwhile, the still-Prime Minister Putin has been lambasting the Baltic states as well on the subject of their minority rights policies. The countries in question do have some problems with their Russian population, many of whom are there because their grandparents and great-grandparents were encouraged to settle and take up the places left empty by Balts who had been deported to Siberia in 1940 and again in 1945.
The problems, however, are not quite as great as the still-Prime Minster tries to make out in order to sound really tough.
Both Estonia and Latvia have large ethnic Russian minorities among their populations, a legacy of Soviet-era migration policies. Most have taken Estonian, Latvian or Russian citizenship, however around 100,000 in Estonia and 290,000 in Latvia have still not opted to apply. Application for Estonian and Latvian citizenship in most cases requires passing a language examination.In the recent referendum in Latvia an attempt to make Russian the second state language was defeated.
Russian is the first language for about one-third of the Baltic country’s 2.1 million people, and many of them would like to accord official status to the language to reverse what they claim has been 20 years of discrimination.
But for ethnic Latvians, the referendum was a brazen attempt to encroach on Latvia’s independence, which was restored two decades ago after a half-century of occupation by the Soviet Union following World War II.
Many Latvians still consider Russian — the lingua franca of the Soviet Union — as the language of the former occupiers. They also harbor deep mistrust toward Russia and worry that Moscow attempts to wield influence in Latvia through the ethnic Russian minority.There never was the slightest chance of that attempt succeeding.
On Monday, however, we got the "real news" and one cannot help feeling that it came at a very convenient moment for the once and future President. It seems that the Ukrainian security services have ... ahem ... uncovered a plot to blow up President Putin as he will be by then immediately after the election next Sunday.
The murder plot was allegedly exposed after the blast in Odessa on January 4, which was initially thought to be a domestic gas explosion. However, it transpired to be an accident during the preparation of an explosive device.
Channel One showed Osmayev in detention saying: "The ultimate aim was to travel to Moscow and try to assassinate Premier Putin." One of the men, Ruslan Madayev, 26, died in the blast but Ukrainian special forces seized a second, Ilya Pyanzin, 28, two days later. Osmayev, who was shown with blotches of green antiseptic covering wounds on his face, was captured at the beginning of February. The men had a laptop with several videos of Mr Putin's cortege travelling through Moscow on it.For some reason there is a great deal of scepticism being voiced about this highly convenient announcement that follows the news of another large-scale demonstration.
Dmitry Oreshkin, a political scientist, said the "timely" appearance of the assassination plot was "a sign that the real leaders of Vladimir Putin's political apparatus – people from the FSB – are trying an old trick to mobilise public opinion using the logic: 'Enemies are all around us. We have just one decisive, effective, clever national leader who they are trying to destroy.'" Oreshkin said the electorate was expected to react by consolidating around Putin against the external threat, giving "a considerable boost to his ratings".Other stories confirm the scepticism and indicate that there are certain discrepancies between the various stories as they are and have been put out. It seems that the Putin assassination attempt has been a late addition to a story that started off as one of a possible gas leak caused explosion.
Let's face it, many of us wondered whether something of this kind might appear in the run-up to that election though this seems to be crude even by Putin's standards. However, let us look at the bright side: at least there have been no bombs in apartment blocks.