Like many Russian leaders before him, Vladimir Putin is finding Russia's brutal winter to be a formidable ally. A major antigovernment demonstration is planned for this Saturday in Moscow, but with temperatures of around -10 expected, opposition leaders may find it hard to garner a strong turnout. The New York Times reports:
When it is that cold, it can be difficult to breathe, let alone send a Twitter message, and organizers are scrambling to come up with ideas — free tea and coffee, hundreds of Japanese space heaters — to entice people out of their homes and keep them alive long enough to make a political point.
There also have been calls for the political sermonizing to be curtailed and the rally to be kept short.
“Otherwise, many will freeze,” Grigory Chxartishvili, better known as the writer Boris Akunin, said at a meeting of the organizing committee this week. “And afterward our rally will be blamed for causing the flu and pneumonia.”
Not surprisingly, authorities are warning people to stay indoors, with health inspector Gennady Onishchenko issuing this baffling statement:
“Whatever side you are on, I categorically forbid you going to the protest wearing the clothes you [usually] wear," Onishchenko said in remarks reported by Russian news agencies.
"Get hold of your granny’s felt boots and sheepskin coats that aren’t moth-eaten and which used to be a sign of luxurious prosperity in the eighties, and then you can go to either protest.”
Opposition leaders are adivising protesters to dress warmly and not worry about looking fashionable for the photographers, although journalist Anastasia Karimova chose to make a statement about the cold using a time-honored approach to Russian political messaging in the above photo, which was posted to her Facebook page. (The sign reads "Cold is not scary.")
Ukraine is currently suffering an even worse cold snap, with temperatures below -30 and more than 100 deaths since last Friday.