Six hundred fifty four Russian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are funded from abroad. Recently a new law came into effect in Russia, demanding these NGOs register as “Foreign Agents”. In colloquial Russian this expression is practically a synonym of the word “spy”.
Today the new law is the object of extremely hot political discussions in Russia.
One of the most exotic actions of protest to the new law became the most covered event of the week in Russia. Several topless women protesters rushed toward Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin while they were touring the Hannover Trade Fair in Germany. (Russia is the partner country for the 2013 Hannover Messe.)
The event had a good coverage in the New York Times.
There are a lot more important details that found no place in the New York Times article.
Here is the excerpt from the German TV coverage of the event.
According to New York Times “The Hanover police said it was not clear whether the protesters — two Germans, two Ukrainians and a Russian — were linked to Femen, a Ukrainian advocacy group known for topless demonstrations against the exploitation of women.”
None of Russian and European sources have any doubt that the action was arranged by Femen, which authorized the event on its official web site.
Femen is a protest group started in Ukraine in 2008, whose membership has grown to countries across the world. According to its website, its purpose is “sextremism serving to protect women’s rights, democracy watchdogs attacking patriarchy, in all its forms: the dictatorship, the church, the sex industry.”
Last Thursday topless Femen activists staged rallies in front of mosques and Tunisian embassies across Europe against what they called an Islamist attack on Arab women’s rights.
Putin reacted to the action of Femen with several public jokes. He said in a joint news conference with Merkel:
“Regarding this performance, I liked it,”
“Organizers of the trade show should be thankful to these Ukrainian girls. Without such an action there would be less talk about the show than with such an action.”
“I did not see anything terrible in this type of protest, we all got used to it. Though I think … it is better to be dressed if one wants to discuss political matters. There are better places for undressing”
“Frankly, I did not hear what the girls were shouting because security guards were very tough. Such huge dudes piled on top of the girls. This, I think, was wrong, girls should be handled softer.”
It was difficult not to hear what girls were shouting. Most of English language media translated their words as “Putin, go to hell”. I think the more proper translation of the Russian idiom, that they used, is “Putin, go f–k yourself”.
The same was written on the girl’s back.
The next day Putin commented the act of Femen again:
“That morning I had no time to have breakfast. If they had showed me, say, sausage or lard, it would be joyful to me, but the attractions they demonstrated were not that much”.
Putin’s reaction behind the scene was very different from reaction in front of cameras. The same day Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made official statement: “This is ordinary hooliganism and unfortunately it happens all over the world, in any city. The women must be punished”.
A criminal case is opened in Germany against the Femen activists. According to Femen website the women are charged with article 132 of the Criminal Code of Germany (public insult to a foreign state representative).
This action of Femen was not the only demonstration against Putin in Hannover.
At the Convention Center, which hosted the opening ceremony of the Hannover Fair, a big demonstration was held to protest against the policy of Russian authorities. According to police, it was attended by about 350 people. The participants held placards demanding an end to the persecution of NGOs and stop political terror in Russia.