Commentators predicted that the weakened Vladimir Putin would compromise with his political opposition as he began his third (actually fourth) term as Russia’s head of state. Our pundits do not understand Putin. For “once-KGB-always-KGB” Putin, compromise is an admission of weakness. Opposition is to be crushed, not bargained with. If one hundred thousand demonstrators go on the streets, beat some of them arrest some, fine them a year’s salary, or jail them as “inciters of mass disorder.” If anti-corruption bloggers attract too large an audience, pass anti-defamation laws, harass and interrogate then, and then stick them in jail to rot. If investigative reporters get too close, look the other way when they are murdered.
Putin’s persecution targets to date have been grown ups, such as Oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, popular anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, investigative reporter (deceased) Anna Politovskaya, Chess master Gary Kasparov, or ex-KGB (deceased) Alexander Litvinenko. Putin’s new enemies are young, naïve, and often female. Muscular, rock-ribbed, macho Putin is picking fights with girls! This doesn’t look good.
On February 21, Putin’s security forces arrested three members of the Pussy Riot feminist band, baklavas covering their faces, as they entreated the Virgin Mary to “get rid of Putin” in a “happening” performance in the Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. Two band members escaped underground, where they are available for interviews. The arrested Pussy Riot girls –Nadya, Katya, and Masha -- are in their early twenties. They have husbands. Two have young children. In April, Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience.
go to forbes.com