Putin face mask
Image: José Coelho/ Lusa

Russian exiles protest against “murderer, guilty, war criminal” Putin

Activists claim “vast majority of Russians don’t agree with policies” of President Putin

A group of Russian activists in Portugal gathered in Praça da Batalha in Porto today to protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they described as a “murderer, guilty and war criminal“.

Dressed in black T-shirts emblazoned with the words “killer” and “guilty” in capital letters, and wearing masks with Putin’s face that read “I am a war criminal”, the protesters, who did not want to identify themselves (‘out of fear’, according to Lusa), said that Russia is living under a “terrorist, propaganda and censorship regime”.

This is why they decided to live in Portugal with their families.

Wanting to “take a stand against Putin”, the handful of demonstrators said that “the vast majority” of Russians don’t agree with Putin’s policies, but accept them out of fear.

“There really is a climate of fear in Russia; you cannot talk without being constantly afraid,” Tim, (fictitious name) told Lusa.

He added: “I came to Portugal because I don’t want my children to grow up in that climate of fear, propaganda and censorship.”

As for the military offensive launched by Russia in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the group “attributed full responsibility to Putin”.

Porto’s protest was just one of many going on in various countries of the world. Here in Portugal, another is taking place this afternoon in Lisbon.

The day has special significance in that it marks the 3rd anniversary of the day Russian opposition leader and activist Alexei Navalny was poisoned.

“There must be no compromise with Putin”

‘Tim’ explained that the protests today arean international event initiated by the AntiCorruption Foundation, by Navalny, who is now in a Russian penal colony.

He also stressed that there is no justification for the narrative of negotiation: “making deals with terrorists is leading to more and more terrorism.

“That’s why there should be no compromise with Putin,” he told journalists, saying that what is happening in Ukraine is the “democratic world fighting against an alliance of dictatorial regimes“.

The events in Lisbon and Porto were specifically open to all “people who are against dictatorial regimes”: Belarusians, Iranians and Venezuelans were also invited, Tim told Lusa.

“It’s important to exchange experiences and support each other”.

Indeed, this particular group of activists has organised various initiatives since the start of the Ukraine war, namely “Don’t Get Used to War”, “SaveMisha”, “FreeNavalny”, “SaveChildrenFromPutinism”, “NoNukesInBelarus”; they also hold weekly protests every Saturday at 2.30pm outside the Russian embassy in Lisbon – the next one being the 20th weekly protest – and they have organised special evenings for people to write letters of support to political prisoners in Russia.

According to ‘Tim’, the association aims to “increase” its protest actions.

“We’re trying to stimulate action. People who come to protests think it’s a big deal, but it’s actually a starting point, it’s a way of showing that we exist, of telling each other that we’re not alone,” he said.

Having spent almost two years in Portugal – a country he says he likes because it’s “very good to live in” – Tim stresses that in Russia he could be arrested “for supporting the opposition and even for pressing a ‘like’ button on an opposition video” – this being the factor that motivated him to move to another country.

“The Russian government is creating more and more laws making criminals out of anyone who supports Ukraine and doesn’t obey Putin. They’re also trying to poison people” in the opposition, he said.

“We have no other choice” but to protest, “because we would feel worse seeing horrible news and doing nothing or very little to help the people suffering from the regime, which we have been afraid of and unable to change for decades,” he added.

Source: LUSA