They are ordinary Russian citizens living in Moscow: an English teacher, an engineer, an economist. For several weeks already they gather on Manezhnaya Ploshchad in Moscow to exchange contacts and to think up a way to change Russia. “We are all citizens of Russia, the country where we were born, and which we love, but which turned into a totalitarian monster,” they say in a video they recorded for their fellow citizens, whom they hope to get involved in changing their country.

“A country that is not free can’t have a good healthcare system, strong education, developed economy. It is a country where people do not work and do not develop. They emigrate.” Why is Russia not free? The arrests of the friends of the group are telling: three years spent in a colony for protesting the construction of a VI{P summer house in a nature reserve, five years for holding a sign at a protest, arrests for posts on social media, dozens of people arrested for supporting Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot illegally kidnapped and jailed in Russia. The most recent case of Russia’s repression of civic liberties is the case of Svetlana Davydova, the mother that is being accused of treason for saying what everybody knew already: Russian troops are in Ukraine.

Their numbers gradually grow, as the video is being avidly shared in social media. The movement’s organizer, Evgeniy Levkovich, in an interview to OpenRussia said that they want to create  a mass civic, non-partisan and non-ideological opposition movement because they are tired of waiting. “First we waited for fair elections. Then we waited for mass protests to bring authorities to their senses. Then we waited for Navalny. Then, for the “coordination council of the opposition.” Then we waited for Putin to react to Bolotnaya ploshchad. […] And the results – war with Ukraine, criminal cases against opposition figures participating in single pickets and a de-facto ban on dissent. We have nothing and nobody to wait for, we are almost living in a country that Orwell described in his anti-utopia Nineteen Eighty Four. It seems that we have to take up the responsibility. The end goal, once again, is to create a mass movement, to cancel all the repressive laws adopted by the Duma, and to ensure the compliance with the Constitution.”

It all began on 18 January 2015, when the group’s friend Mark Galperin was arrested for holding a placard “Je Suis Charlie.” In Russia, only solitary pickets with placards are permitted without prior registration. At a certain moment, a provocateur with a sheet of white paper stood next to Mark. His protest ceased to be solitary, he was arrested and is now facing up to five years in prison. This arrest signalled that it’s time to start moving, in order to not betray their friend. And they will continue to gather on the square until their aim is achieved, at the very least – until their friends are released from prison.

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