Corrupt Former Bureaucrats and Disgruntled Russian Liberals Gather in Vilnius to Beg West for Sancti
The so-called forum of Free Russia opened in Vilnius. The delegates are immigrants and Russian non-system opposition members. What a grim mixture. Among the «stars» of the meeting are Garry Kasparov, fugitive deputy Ilya Ponomarev, economist Andrey Illarionov and other anti-Russia delegates, who left their homeland long ago.Drawing a so-called «Putin's list» promises to be the main event of the forum. This is how they ask the USA to impose sanctions against the Russians hated by the immigrants. What an old amusement. We remember Kasyanov from PARNAS flew to America to complain and brought lists too.
I can imagine what the U.S. authorities would do with an American politician who went to Russia with a list of Americans to punish them from Moscow.
Elena Erofeeva is reporting from Vilnius.
A charity fair at the Cathedral Square of Vilnius. The Germans fry sausages and make mulled wine the Ukrainians pour borsch in plastic cups the Russians treat with pancakes and vodka. Europe is preparing for Christmas, not for politics.
On the other side of the square, the Russian opposition is gathering in the hotel Radisson Astoria. They came to the forum Free Russia. The main ideologist Garry Kasparov arrives in the evening. The security guard doesn't let us film.
On the opening day of the forum, our film crew is faced by a police squad. They carefully check the documents. Just in case they warn: the whole day the police car will stand in front of the hotel. Today everything can happen. Right off the bat, the participants of the Free Russia start to impose bans.
Elena Erofeeva: This is the forum of a Free Russia, we are a free press of a free Russia.
Ivan Tyutrin, organizer of the forum: You are not a free press. You're not press at all. You are propagandists. You are not accredited and you'll never be accredited. You'll be accredited when the Putin regime is dismantled and all your managers will be lustrated.
Elena Erofeeva: Will all of us be burnt then?
Ivan Tyutrin: I don't know. We'll see.
Bellicose opposition members are trying to keep cool. They don't shake hands with correspondents of Russian state channels. Here is the lawyer Mark Feygin, who defended Nadezhda Savchenko. He looks with rage but passes by.
Elena Erofeeva: Can we talk?
Mark Feygin: Leave me.
Elena Erofeeva: Can you please say a few words? About propaganda. You call us propaganda. Talk to us.
He hides behind the backs of Lithuanian guards, there will be no conversation. The former Russian journalist Aider Muzhdabaev who fled to Ukraine also refuses to speak. He asks for water to control emotions and measures the lobby with steps.
Aider Muzhdabaev, journalist and participant of the Free Russia: Sorry, can you call the police? I'm fed up with them. Leave me. You're invading my personal space.
Another new Ukrainian, a former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, gives an interview. He is cheerful, friendly, joking.
Ilya Ponomarev, participant of the Free Russia: I came to see friends.
Elena Erofeeva: With friends? Will you drink some vodka?
Ilya Ponomarev: Sure. I haven't seen you for a long time. I'd love to come.
Elena Erofeeva: But there's a criminal case opened against you.
Ilya Ponomarev: That's why I can't do this. I won't be able to talk to my friends. Only to send parcels to prison.
When he speaks of Russia, there's a slight sadness in his intonation. He would come back, but a criminal case will not let him do this. Russian investigators accuse Ponomarev of embezzling 750 000$ of the Skolkovo fund.
Elena Erofeeva: Who pays for the banquet?
Ilya Ponomarev: Each of us pays. We split the bill.
Elena Erofeeva: Is it expensive?
Ilya Ponomarev: You're staying here
Elena Erofeeva: No, we don't have so much money.
Ilya Ponomarev: You're poor then. Should I pay for the hotel?
Elena Erofeeva: No, no, no, thank you. We'll do it ourselves.
At the accreditation desk there are more foreigners than Russians. Only the Russian press is pointedly ignored. The guarantee of the trustees was needed, that is, to be welcome in the opposition circles. And although there were a lot of vacant seats in the rented hall, strangers were not allowed.
Gossip session of the opposition circle did not cause much interest. They waited for a lot of people and prepared personalized badges, notebooks, pens. But going for stationery in Lithuania, just to talk, is pointless. After all, nothing concrete again: no unifying idea, no program. They only have a common fictional enemy.
The event was broadcast on the Internet. Garry Kasparov's address was the longest. He seemed to accumulate in himself a hatred for Russia and decided to speak out. In the entire report, there is not a single bright spot. Even Europe with America turned out to be unreliable.
Garry Kasparov, participant of the Free Russia: I understand, of course, the Western elite is corrupt, coward, slow. Nevertheless, this mechanism is gradually turning around.
The people gradually dissolved, the hall was almost empty. They went for a walk in Christmas Vilnius. Garry Kasparov also left before the end. Mr. Kasparov, may I ask a few questions? Why are you so tough?
Elena Erofeeva: Mr. Kasparov, what is your political stance? What will happen with the opposition?
This is what will happen with the opposition. This is how the whole day passed.
Six hours in a row with short smoke breaks. They promised to continue the next day. They were going to discuss sanctions against the Kremlin elite.
Elena Erofeeva, Mikhail Devyatkin, Viktor Barmin for Vesti Weekly from Vilnius.