Putin team taunts demonstrators
Police kept snatching protesters off the street, apparently trying to keep them off balance, and often the only apparent offense was wearing a white ribbon symbolizing protest.
The Washington Post
MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin completed the job swap Tuesday that enraged voters when he announced it last fall: A day after Putin was inaugurated as president, Dmitry Medvedev succeeded him as prime minister.
Though protesters still roamed the streets Tuesday, trying to avoid police along with periodic downpours, Putin and his people showed little inclination to engage them with anything but contempt.
In the afternoon, a legislator asked Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary, whether he regretted saying riot police who clubbed protesters at a legal demonstration Sunday should have treated them even more harshly.
"They were too soft," Peskov said, according to a tweet from Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomarev. "Protesters who hurt riot police should have their livers smeared on the asphalt."
Police on Tuesday afternoon said they had detained more than 300 people in the previous 24 hours.
They kept snatching protesters off the street, apparently trying to keep them off balance. Often the only apparent offense was wearing a white ribbon symbolizing protest. As Michael Idov, editor of Russian GQ, tweeted: "Nothing like seeing people arrested for an accessory."
Police acted with relative restraint Tuesday, perhaps hoping that rain and lack of sleep would drive away demonstrators more effectively than night sticks.
Some protesters joked that the authorities must have seeded the clouds to demoralize them. That moderation was unlikely to last until Wednesday, when Russian armed forces march through Red Square to commemorate victory in World War II, known here as the Great Patriotic War.
Apparently unwilling to brook dissent from any quarter, Putin treated the Duma deputies dismissively in his first appearance before them since his inauguration, though the majority approved his choice of ex-president Medvedev as prime minister in a 299-to-144 vote.
His discussion of economic problems — which he blamed on the Soviet past — set off a murmur among Communist deputies, which Putin promptly silenced with trademark insensitivity.
"Yes, my friends, let's not debate that. The point is that nobody wanted what we were producing — don't wave your hands. Because nobody was buying our galoshes except for Africans, who had hot sand to walk on."