Exhausted Russian reporters plan anti-demo demonstration

By bne IntelliNews March 19, 2012

bne -

They've had little to do over the last 12 years, but suddenly Russia's best political reporters are exhausted by the endless string of demonstrators taking to Moscow's streets. And most of them happen on Saturday, screwing up the weekend with the kids. Fed up with all the extra work covering the protests, Russia's journalists say they are planning an "anti-demo demonstration" to call on the protest movement to stay at home (or at least restrict their activity to the internet).

In the middle of March a group of journalists set up a Facebook group, "Journalists Against Demonstrations", and say they will take to the streets too. "After yet another demonstration we were back at our desks, exhausted. We began to understand how sick and tired we were of all these repetitive protest campaigns; sick and tired of running around in the street till late at night," says Yelizaveta Surnachova, a correspondent for the Slon.ru web portal, reported Ria Novosti. "So as a joke we set up the group; and as a joke, several of our colleagues supported the idea," she said.

The group's motto is: "Let Journalists Return to Their Families!"

It includes correspondents from such respected news outlets as Vedomosti and Kommersant dailies, Ekho Moskvy radio, and the Polit.ru and Gazeta.ru internet portals, Surnachova said.

The group is considering inviting riot police to their event. "Those guys must be sick and tired of the rallies for fair elections, for Putin or whatever else," Surnachova added.

An unnamed employee of the Moscow City Government's call centre has allegedly approved of the idea, said Anton Alekseyev, one of the anti-demonstration protest's masterminds.

The "protest against protests" site was a bit of fun, but it also highlights a more serious point. The most recent protest on Novy Arbat in central Moscow on March 11 attracted a mere 20,000 people, small by recent standards and led some to speculate that the protest movement is losing momentum. Even the opposition admits that Putin's genuine support is probably over 50%.

However, there are increasing number of reports of spontaneous flash-mob actions happening around the city, organized by groups like Street Artists, who assembled a group of over 200 people to dance to "Putin on the Ritz" at the end of February.

"A few months ago young people didn't give a damn about politics, but now it has suddenly become cool and things like this are happening every week all over Moscow. It is totally out of control and not even associated with the 'official' opposition," says Olga Romanova, a journalists with the campaign liberal paper Novaya Gazeta.

President-elect Vladimir Putin should be warned: you can fight violence with violence, but the Kremlin is powerless to fight against funny. If this carries on, the opposition will have to trade in their white ribbons for red noses.

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