Vitaliy Portnikov makes some observations on the recent demonstration in Manezhnaya Square in Moscow following the guilty verdict on of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
He compares this demonstration to those that took place during the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko. None of them were particularly well attended and many Russians, and Ukrainians, are, and were sceptical about their efficacy, failing to understand that the protesters in both countries were first and foremost demonstrating against the cynical use of the legal system to try and 'break the back' of possible political foes.
"It is clear that Navalny is on trial for political reasons, that his brother is a victim of crude hostage taking. The people who came out to the streets in Moscow, where just trying to protect the rule of law. And the number of Ukrainians who came out to the Maidan at first was even smaller."
Portnikov recalls that until Berkut riot police tried to clear the Maidan of students just over a year ago the majority of activists in Ukraine, and virtually all politicians believed that 'the moment was lost' and protests would fizzle out.
One of the future leaders of the Maidan, following Yanukovych's non signing of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement at Vilnius, told Portnikov that after Vilnius: "no revolutionary situation in Ukraine exists and is not expected". But just a few days later, after the mass beating of students, the streets were filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters.
Portnikov concludes: "Putin is politically much more shrewd than Yanukovych - at the end of the day he is not criminal thug but a 'Chekist', and will avoid adding fuel to the fire of protests. He mobilizes society by pressing on the chauvinistic pedal.
If Yanukovych had signed to an association agreement in Vilnius, even if he had not tried to disperse the protesters and promised to continue the policy of drawing closer to Europe, if he had entered negotiations with the opposition and offered to share power at the first stages of the Maidan, he would still have been president - and the country would be rolling into the abyss. But Yanukovych was a greedy idiot and a puppet. There is no-one behind Putin, but this does not mean that sooner or later he will not make the same mistake."
p.s. At the New Year's 'Celebration' in central Donetsk yesterday: Almost 100 of the city's 800,000 population attended - looking forward to 2015 under Russian occupation. About 40,000 attended a similar event in Kyiv.