Putin says it’s OK to beat protesters

Putin says it’s OK to beat protesters

Luke Harding

September 1, 2010

Vladimir Putin ... you have to have permission.Vladimir Putin … you have to have permission.

MOSCOW: The Russian Prime Minister has angrily dismissed protests against his regime as ”provocations” and said anyone who took part in unsanctioned street rallies against the Kremlin should expect a ”whack on the bonce”.

Using characteristic street language, Vladimir Putin derided Russia’s opposition as a group of publicity-seeking malcontents and said they had only themselves to blame if they were on the receiving end of police brutality during anti-government meetings.

Mr Putin’s scathing remarks in an interview with the newspaperKommersant were on the eve of anti-government demonstrations that take place at the end of each month. Anti-Putin rallies were also due to take place for the first time outside the Russian consulate in London, and in New York, Helsinki, Berlin and Tel Aviv.

The demonstrators, or 31ers as they are known, are seeking to highlight article 31 of Russia’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.

For the past eight months the small but vociferous opposition has held rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg. Organisers were due to go ahead with a planned rally in Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow, despite the likelihood of arrest by riot police who have violently broken up previous gatherings.

Speaking while driving a Lada on a road trip in Russia’s far east, Mr Putin said Russians needed to get permission before they could take to the streets. ”You’ve got it [permission]? Go and march. If not, you don’t have the right. Go to a rally without permission and you get a whack on the bonce. It’s that simple.”

Mr Putin said the demonstrators invited the Western media along and ”poured red paint on their heads” to give the Kremlin a bad name. He said that in London demonstrators who protested without permission also got a ”whack on the nut”.

Writing on his blog, the opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, said the interview revealed Mr Putin to be ”mendacious, ignorant and spiteful”. He poured scorn on Mr Putin’s claim he had never heard of the liberal rock star Yuri Shevchuk, who has led recent rallies.

During a U2 concert in Moscow last week, Bono invited Shevchuk on stage to perform Bob Dylan’s Knockin on Heaven’s Door. Hours before the concert, authorities detained five Amnesty volunteers outside the venue.