Originally published on Ежедневный Журнал’s website on March 11, 2010, the liberal opposition has drafted a petition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. At the time that I publish this blog post, the signatures total is at 9,962 (access to this site, by the way, has been spotty — thanks to DoS attacks, according to the press). I haven’t been able to find an English-language translation of the text (though RFE/RL discusses it here), so I went ahead and did it myself. (Note: I stopped looking for a translation once I resolved to do this, so it’s more than possible that my work has since been rendered redundant.)
It’s worth pointing out that many of the signatures are from Russians living outside the Russian Federation. Many others don’t reveal their location, at all.
Aaaanyway, without further ado …
“Putin Must Go!” An Appeal
Citizens of Russia! The realization that our country finds itself – thanks to the ruling elite – in a blind alley has driven us to publish this appeal.
Seeking a guarantee on their private security, [Yeltsin and his] “family” surrendered virtually unlimited power over Russia to a person of dubious reputation, distinguished by neither talent nor the necessary life and professional experience, and, as a result, we witnessed a sharp degradation of all state institutions.
A significant number of the ruling “elite” already senses this urgency – we need only recall that sensational opus “Russia, Forward!” However, Medvedev’s modernization project is clearly just for show and serves a singular purpose: to refresh the scenery but protect the regime’s true authoritarian, kleptocratic nature.
We maintain that the ruinous Russian socio-political structure, which today is imposed on the citizens of our country, has — as its chief architect, curator, and keeper — a single person. His name is Vladimir Putin.
We maintain that there can be no reforms in Russia today, while Putin commands the real power in the country.
We maintain that the dismantling of the Putin regime and the rerouting the country to a path of democratic development can only begin when Putin loses his grip on the levers of the state and society.
We maintain that, during the years of his rule, Putin has become a symbol of ruthlessness against his own citizens in a country increasingly corrupt and unpredictable — a country whose citizens have no rights and are overwhelmingly poor, where there are no ideals and there is no future.
If, as Kremlin propagandists love to repeat, Russia under Yeltsin was on its knees, Putin and his entourage have put Russia’s face in the mud.
In a mud of the authorities’ contempt that lacks not only individual rights and freedoms, but human life itself.
In a mud of fake and helpless imitations of political and social institutions – from the bureaucratic phantom of “United Russia” to the Nashi-Putinistas.
In a mud of hearts and minds corrupted by deceptive television, which has turned one of the most educated peoples in the world into a soulless, amoral crowd.
In a mud of total theft and corruption, flowing from the very heights of the government. Without Putin’s many years of heroic self-sacrifice at the state’s helm, we wouldn’t have the financial empires of his billionaire friends – Abramovch, Timchenko, Koval’chukov, Rotenberg. We wouldn’t have the parasitic state corporations of his inner circle – those black holes of the Russian economy.
Having begun his rise with the memorable phrase “bump them off in the shithouse,” Putin for nearly 11 years has relied on this universal “tool” of governance, which has proved especially effective in relations with political opponents and business competitors.
Any political, social, or economic dissent is immediately suppressed – in the best case, with administrative restrictions, but often with the nightsticks of riot police, criminal harassment, physical violence, and even murder. On this score, Putin has proved that he will destroy his opponents with any means available.
In the time Putin has led the government, everything that had even the possibility of failing has been defeated. Pension and administrative reforms were shot down; reforms in the army, the special forces, the police, and the court systems did not pass; and the national healthcare system remains in a pitiful state.
The decline of education and science, abandoned to the mercy of traders from the “Ozero” corporation, has reached such a level that the “titans” of Russian scientific thought decided it just to include characters like Pyotr and Gryzlov.
Ten years have been frittered away, when a boom in the prices of hydrocarbons and metals could have been used to modernize the country and effect structural changes in the economy. For this reason, Russia suffered such a severe blow from the world [economic] crisis, which is far from over.
As the designated successor to Yeltsin, Putin has not only failed to correct the disastrous mistakes of his predecessor and put out the fire in the Caucasus, but he managed to turn it into something far worse that could very well break apart the country.
“Kursk,” “Nord-Ost,” Beslan, thousands killed in the sectarian second Chechen War, thousands dead from man-made disasters — burned alive in nursing homes and hospitals unsuitable for habitation, dozens of murdered journalists, human rights workers, political opponents of the regime, and the faceless victims of sadistic police mayhem – all are tombstones demarcating Putin’s rule.
The unsolved mysteries surrounding the Putin regime’s beginnings remain Basaev’s incursion into Dagestan, the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, and the “exercises” in Ryazan.
Putin’s inability to think strategically no longer surprises anyone. He could not anticipate what the world would be like in ten-to-fifteen years, or what place in this changing world Russia could or should occupy. He was unable to assess the real threats and risks facing the country, and therefore not in a position to properly plan the country’s possible direction (or identify potential allies and enemies).
A vivid illustration of such shortsighted policy is the recent capitulation of an agreement with China, with which Putin carelessly signed over vast sums of the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia.
Also demonstrating Putin’s poor understanding of the future is his maniacal passion for laying gas pipes in every which direction, initiating ambitious, expensive projects (like the Sochi Olympics or the bridge to “Russia” island) that are absolutely counterintuitive in a country where a significant part of the population lives below the poverty line.
Moving from the president’s seat to the prime minister’s chambers, leaving in the Kremlin one of his obedient lieutenants (of his own “blood type”) – a modern Simeon Bekbulatovich – Putin has created an openly anti-constitutional system, where his term is for-life.
Clearly, Putin will never voluntarily give up power. His determination to rule for life is driven less by a thirst for power, and more by a fear of being held responsible for his actions. For the Russian people, it is humiliating (and for the country, it is deathly dangerous) to have a ruler like Putin. Russia cannot continue to bear this cross.
As it loses ground, Putin’s faction could at any moment expand its targeted repressions to a mass repression. We caution the employees of law enforcement organs and security agencies: do not go against your own people, and do not obey the criminal orders of the corrupt, when they send you to kill for the likes of Putin, Sechin, and Deripaska.
Today, the nation-wide demands at protests from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad should adopt the following slogan: “Putin, Leave!” Eliminating Putinism is the first [difficult], but necessary, step towards a new free Russia.