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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

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Shopping? That breaks all the "man rules".

If you have about 50 minutes and don't mind reading subtitles you can see what the Russians are protesting here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrwlk7_GF9g

This is what an oligarchic police state delivers. Americans would be right to be made uncomfortable.

I am surprised Navalny is still alive.

It is fair to say that I returned from Russia understanding the place even less than I did before I went out. One of my biggest WTF moments occurred at the huge Russian Army Theatre in Moscow - comparable to the Royal Albert Hall - where I saw a production of Much Ado About Nothing. That performance had the finest Benedict I had seen in any language, but I digress.

We got to the theatre early which enabled us to take in and explore the place, which was incredibly beautiful... and incredibly grand. While we were hanging around, the foyer started filling up with Russian squaddies, immaculately turned out and wearing ushankas. Squaddies watching Shakespeare? The only stage show that British squaddies ever go to involves a woman removing her clothes! However, again I digress...

I commented on the black panther shoulder patch that they were wearing and was told that these guys were internal army. When I asked for further clarification I was informed that their role was to defend the Russian government against its own people in the event of demonstrations, riots, or any form of rebellion. I'm afraid that my jaw hit the floor when I heard that. Bloody hell! A Russian army whose role pitted them the citizens of their own country. We have nothing that remotely compares to this in the West.

What you have to remember is that Putin is top dog. He is effectively President for life and he will do anything and everything necessary to stay in power. He is also extremely clever. Russia is probably the most patriotic and jingoistic country in the entire world and getting its military involved in foreign conflicts is returning popularity ratings of over 80%.

However, what is not so well understood in the West is that his domestic policies are very unpopular. Corruption, which is easily Russia's worst enemy, remains unchecked, and the economy... Even Putin's most fervent admirer will concede that the man is no economist. Sanctions following the Ukrainian intervention have hit really hard, and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier, which I suppose is where - if push comes to shove - those guys with the black panther shoulder patches come in.

The ridiculous paradox is that because of a total lack of political correctness, someone like me can actually get away with saying things that I would get jumped on from a great height for in my own country. However, it must be realised that this is because I am a very little, insignificant person. If I was someone with a bit more clout, such as the valiant Sergei Magnitsky, who started pissing off oligarchs in high places, my life in Russia would have been short and painful. By the way, I agree completely with Missred. I share her surprise that the equally brave Navalny remains alive and I think it most unlikely that he will die of old age in his own bed.

Typo - para 3: should read 'pitted them against'

Thanks for that, Richard, always good to get an inside opinion. Sounds as though Churchill summed the place up accurately!

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