Are You suprised ?









Happy Birthday Mr President!

43 mins 46 secs







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Vladimir Putin crushes opponents, but a growing army of young Russians is fighting back. Their gift to the strongman on his 65th birthday? A show of defiance and a demand to quit. Eric Campbell reports. 



Russia without Putin! We are the power here!



In St Petersburg, where Russia’s last Tsar was toppled, another revolt is stirring.  It’s on the streets where thousands of chanting young protesters are set to march, and online, where memes and piss-takes of President Putin and his comrades go viral.



If the strongman has a weakness, this is it: the many young Russians who have no memory of any leader other than Putin and who are angry about corruption and abuse of power.



The youth are sick of this drivel. They smell all the lies – independent politician Maxim Reznik



On Putin’s 65th birthday, protesters want him to do what most Russians do – retire. They will defy official warnings that they will be arrested for demonstrating illegally.



Meet Saddam and Gaddafi… Spend last years of his life in The Hague - protesters’ encrypted birthday messages for President Putin








St Petersburg, Putin’s old hometown, will be the scene of the biggest anti-Putin protest. Watching events unfold there, along with hundreds of police, is reporter Eric Campbell.  As the hours count down to the march, the Night Wolves, a fiercely nationalist bikers’ club, rally in Putin’s support. Other young Putin loyalists stage their own celebrations.



One, two, three. Congratulations Vladimir Vladimirovich! – Selfie birthday message from members of United Russia youth



Behind the birthday protest are supporters of Putin’s chief enemy, the youthful and digital media-savvy Alexei Navalny. Already some volunteers have been detained, and many more face arrest tonight. Navalny himself is in court-ordered detention, banned from running for office for 10 years after being accused of fraud.



So kid, stay out of politics and give your brain a shower – lyrics from anti-Navalny pop song



But Navalny insists he will be a force at the elections next March.



I am going to these elections to change the government. If I’m not allowed to run… we’ll start a big campaign to boycott (the election) – Navalny interviewed by Eric Campbell



Navalny is cleverly harnessing the passions of his young backers, but he will need to cut through a pall of cynicism shared by many compatriots.




Putin is obviously corrupt. But we too give bribes. How can we ask Putin to step down if we ourselves give bribes to traffic police and doctors? We’re just as corrupt as Putin – Dima, St Petersburg man



Reporter Eric Campbell was the ABC’s Russia correspondent during the Boris Yeltsin years just as Putin’s star was rising. Now Campbell looks at modern Russia through the prism of Putin’s birthday which culminates in a protest that suddenly turns frightening.


Man in crowd at rally

MAN:  I love St Petersburg! Thank you.


Couple kiss at rally



Guy plays song at rally. GFX:



Navalny rally



Navalny addresses crowd

ERIC CAMPBELL:  He’s the man Vladimir Putin fears most – a charismatic opposition leader exposing the Kremlin’s corruption.  And he’s gunning for Putin’s job in the March election.


Navalny talks with Campbell

ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle] “I am not interested in what the government says because I am going to these elections to change the government”.


Crowd at rally



Crowd running. Police drag Navalny supporter

ERIC CAMPBELL: The Kremlin is trying to crush Alexei Navalny and the army of young activists behind him, but this generation is learning how to fight back. 


Protestors chant

PROTESTORS CHANT: [subtitle] “Russia without Putin!  Russia without Putin!”


Campbell at protest

ERIC CAMPBELL: [at protest] “Well this is just extraordinary.  There really is no need for the police to be doing this. Oh, we have to stay at the back because there’s a chance we could be arrested too”. 


Protestors. Police make arrests

It’s a revolution on the streets and online in the city where the last Tsar was toppled.  Has the Russian strongman finally met his match?  We’ve come to St Petersburg on a special day to find out. 


Campbell to camera at Winter Palace

ERIC CAMPBELL: “This is Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday and many here are wishing him a long and happy reign.  But some want him to do what other Russians have to do at 65 – retire. 



St Petersburg is the heartland of what’s left of political opposition and this evening mainly younger people will try to stage a mass rally demanding his resignation.  Authorities have said that’s illegal, and they’ll arrest any protestors.  Well we’re going to follow the events of this turbulent day as Russian’s grapple with how best to say, ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’.”


Girl plays with leaves in park

RUSSIAN SONG: [in park by family]
“No one can understand why I am so happy on this dreary day. 


Family sing in park

Oh, I am playing my accordion for all passers-by. 
It’s so sad that a birthday only happens once a year
It’s so sad that a birthday only happens once a year”.


Child rides toy car/ Navalny campaign office. Staff entering

ERIC CAMPBELL: It’s 10 am at Navalny’s campaign headquarters and staff are having a challenging start to a long day. 


Elena on phone in office

Elena Mozavetsakaya, who’s 20, is trying to find out just how many of her co-workers have been locked up. 


Elena interview

ELENA MOZAVETSAKAYA: “Our lawyer just got arrested and our colleague just got arrested too, and he’s already in the police station.  And well, in a couple of minutes, okay I’ll tell you something else”.


Campaign office interiors

ERIC CAMPBELL: Their boss, Alexei Navalny, isn’t coming in to work either.  He was detained a week ago as soon as he announced tonight’s protest.



KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “He’s arrested for 20 days.  So that’s the birthday gift from Mr Putin, I’m pretty sure”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: “The courts putting him in gaol is their birthday gift?”


KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “Yes, yes.  Absolutely, yes”. [laughs]


Kostya and Campbell watch footage on computer

ERIC CAMPBELL: “When was this rally?”


KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “A few weeks ago in Khabarovsk”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: Kostya Andriotis who’s 24,





is now in charge of publicising the protest.  State TV bans any mention of Navalny, so he’s posting videos on Navalny’s YouTube site that has two million followers.


Kostya interview

KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “All of our TV channels is state controlled, so nobody can spread information. 


Kostya and Campbell watch footage on computer

We’re fighting for the minds, that’s the main reason”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: “So this video is the birthday invitation to come to the protest?”


KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “Yes, absolutely”. 


ERIC CAMPBELL: Kostya’s video shows how officials are refusing to let them protest anywhere in the city.  Instead, they’ve been offered a venue in the middle of nowhere.


Kostya’s video

VIDEO: [subtitles] “Novosyolki village is situated outside the circle highway and has no direct transport with the city.  It takes 45 minutes to walk from Levashovo Station”.


Kostya and Campbell watch video on computer

KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “Yeah it’s outside from the city, no buses, no trains – nothing.  Here is the military base”.





Elena updates supporters via app

ERIC CAMPBELL:  To update people on where the protest will be, they use an encrypted messaging app called Telegram. 


KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “We are communicating in Telegram,



because that’s the only one safer way to communicate right now”.


Elena texts… GFX: 10:35 - Our lawyer, Denisov, from Navalny office has been detained.

ERIC CAMPBELL:  They can put out a telegram every time someone’s arrested. 


GFX:  11:15 - Vladimir Putin turns 65 today.  What would you like to wish the President?

ERIC CAMPBELL: And they can ask people for birthday gift ideas.


GFX:  11:16 - Good luck, health and a long reign over Russia.



GFX:  11:23 – Meet Saddam and Gaddafi. 

ERIC CAMPBELL: Jokes like that can get you in trouble. 


Navalny campaign offices

Across Russia, Navalny’s campaign offices have been vandalised, volunteers have been bashed, Navalny has been repeatedly gaoled and even had green paint hurled in his face.


Video of Navalny covered in green paint

ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle] “I’ve got this alcohol product to clean myself. I’ve got a very stylish face that perfectly matches the colour of our campaign headquarters”.



Campaign staffer carries balloons into office

ERIC CAMPBELL: At the last protest in St Petersburg’s in June, more than 600 people were arrested. 


Police trucks parked along canal

With police trucks already parked around the corner, they know this one could be just as bad.


Andre interview

ANDRE: “I hope no, but you know we hope for one thing and we get another thing”.


Kostya with Campbell in lawyer’s office

KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “This is our lawyer office.  Now he’s in gaol and he’s not here but you can see there are a lot of papers on the table”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: “This is where he challenges the might of the Kremlin?”


KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “Yes, from this table”.





KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “Yes.  He finished the university, came here to work in Alexei Navalny’s campaign”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: “And they’ve just locked him up?”





They think he organised a meeting today but he’s just a lawyer, but nobody cares in the government.  They are just taking somebody and then gaol him, gaol him, gaol him”.


Navalny at rally with supporters

ERIC CAMPBELL: Navalny has inspired them to take these risks because he’s the first man they believe could take Putin out. 



At 41, he’s a new breed of politician, a slick, American-style campaigner who makes people believe change is possible.  But this Yale-educated lawyer is not a western style liberal.  As we’ll see later, he combines democratic rhetoric with strident nationalism in a controversial but popular mix.


ELENA MOZAVETSAKAYA: “Right now he’s the only one who can actually become president.  We don’t have much choice here. 


Elena interview

We don’t have many people who can get this much support from the people”. 


ERIC CAMPBELL: “You don’t support everything he’s said?”



ELENA MOZAVETSAKAYA: “No, I don’t.  Yeah. I don’t think one can find a politician that he supports in every matter, but most of the things he says I think they are right”.


Elena collecting signatures

ERIC CAMPBELL: Navalny’s been barred from public office for 10 years because of a fraud conviction his supporters say was trumped up. 



They’re collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures to demand he be allowed to run.


Putin montage

[Putting singing]



ERIC CAMPBELL: Most are too young to remember any other leader than their hunting, fishing, ice hockey playing president. 



[Putting singing]



ERIC CAMPBELL:  Putin has ruled for 18 long years, projecting himself as the only man strong enough to make Russia great again.  They just wish he’d stop taking his shirt off.


Elena interview

ELENA MOZAVETSAKAYA: “Yes, that, that’s funny to us. Yes, it’s just funny.  He became 65, yeah and he doesn’t look very well.  And he can’t understand young people very well right now so for young people, I think Putin is not a choice”.


Polina arrives at office

ERIC CAMPBELL: At 11 am the office manager Polina Kostylyova arrives.  She’s managed to evade police but with 7 hours ‘til the protest starts, her nerves are on edge.


Polina on phone

POLINA KOSTYLYOVA: [subtitle/on mobile] “Don’t call me “young lady”, I’m the campaign manager!  Again sir, half of my staff were arrested today. [hangs up] Idiot”.


MONTAGE – park/musicians



Person in park texts. GFX:
13:27 - For some it’s Putin’s birthday. For others it’s 11 years since Anna Politkovskaya was murdered.




Campbell to camera in park

ERIC CAMPBELL: Being a dissident in Russia doesn’t just mean risking arrest, it can, quite literally, get you killed.  The event we’re going to now is a commemoration for a journalist who was murdered 11 years ago on Putin’s birthday.  Her name was Anna Politkovskaya”.


Memorial in park. People take photos and lay flowers at her photo.

The investigative reporter was a troublesome critic of Putin and the war he led in Chechnya before she was shot dead in her apartment stairwell. 


People at memorial

Every year intellectuals and old friends gather to remember the 48-year-old writer.


Man at memorial

MAN: [subtitle] “A few weeks before her murder, she gave me her book, and the last chapter ended with the words: “Unfortunately, in modern Russia, the bullet is often used as a solution to problems”.  Back then no one knew that those words would be prophetic”.


People at memorial

ERIC CAMPBELL: This year the city government refused permission for the lunchtime tribute, claiming the park was double booked. 


Maxim at memorial

Maxim Reznik, an independent in the city parliament, led a public outcry to allow it.  He’s not surprised to see dozens of police keeping watch on aging dissidents.


Maxim interview

MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “Because it is these people who represent a real threat.  No one else represents a threat to the current regime. Only those who speak out for freedom, for human rights, for freedom of the press, for democracy, or for a European path of development for Russia – these are the people that represent a threat”.


Old man and young man on bench

ERIC CAMPBELL: The ranks of these old intellectuals might be thinning, but Reznik believes a new generation could take their place. Like Navalny, he’s looking at how to reach them.


Rap night



Rapper wearing Putin T-shirt

RUSSIAN RAPPER: [subtitle] “Welcome to tonight’s battle.  Whatever your views, we show respect to the MCs.


Reznik competes at rap night

ERIC CAMPBELL: Two nights earlier Reznik took part in what’s become a feature of St Petersburg’s new politics, middle-aged men having rap battles. 



MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle/rapping] “I’ll repeat once again for you guys in the tanks.  Your morals come from the dungeons of the KGB. 



Smelling of torture, blood and death, you’re the real demons.  You’re turning life into a living hell, pulling your country back”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: Reznik went head-to-head with a politician from the ruling party, United Russia, and slammed him. 



MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle/rapping] “There’s nothing genius about Navalny, but compared to our talentless leaders, he looks rather convincing”.


Audience at rap night

ERIC CAMPBELL: Politicians are struggling to communicate with young voters because they’ve stopped listening.


United Russia rep raps

UNITED RUSSIA REPRESENTATIVE: [subtitle/rapping] “They don’t really want to legally protest, they just want clashes with police”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: The Kremlin has always used television to reach people, telling them how Putin saved Russia from the post-communist chaos of the 1990s.  Problem is, this generation doesn’t really remember the ‘90s and doesn’t watch TV.


Reznik interview

MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “There is a lot of lying, or maybe there’s nothing but lies on TV. Young people stopped watching the “zombie box” long ago.  They’ve turned to the internet. Things online aren’t as organised.  Anything official makes them want to vomit”.


Navalny’s YouTube channel

ERIC CAMPBELL: And that as much as anything explains Navalny’s rise.  His YouTube channel gives daily updates on politics and corruption in a style that keeps young people coming back for more.


Navalny on YouTube video

ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle/YouTube channel] “Oh, those devilish villains from the Kremlin”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: It breaks down the dodgy dealings of Putin’s inner circle











Drone footage. YouTube video

and it flies drones over walled estates to show how politicians really live.


ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle/drone footage] “We fly back.  Total area of residency is 80 hectares.  That’s like 3 Kremlins or 30 Red Squares.  We can’t even estimate its market price.  A renovated historic manor, several houses, a swimming pool, a hotel, a ski slope, underground facilities.  We estimate to build such a complex would cost 25 to 30 billion roubles ($US424-509 million).  Here is a giant chessboard where Dimitry Medvedev can be king and crush rebellious figures”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: A video alleging massive bribes to the Prime Minister,


YouTube video. Medvedev GFX

Dmitry Medvedev, had more than 25 million views.


Reznik interview

MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “This has been successfully exploited by Alexei Navalny who positions himself as a fighter against corruption and for truth.  It doesn’t matter if it’s true, if Alexei Navalny really is what he says he is, that’s another issue. What’s important is if there is a demand for it.  The old political elite, I call them rusty cyborgs, nauseate the youth, no one wants to follow or listen to them”.


St Petersburg GVs






ERIC CAMPBELL: St Petersburg has long prided itself on being Russia’s most European and outward looking city.  Tsar Peter the Great built it in the 18th century to be Russia’s window on the west.  Vladimir Putin grew up here before moving to East Germany to spy for the KGB. 


Reznik walks with Campbell

Maxim Reznik wishes he’d picked up some more of his home town’s outlook.



MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “I think it’s impossible for St Petersburg not to leave its mark on a person born here.  Putin has certain qualities characteristic of St Petersburg, but he is in no way close to me, politically. Broadly speaking, I’m more of a St Petersburg guy.  Putin is more of a KGB guy”.


Navalny video

ERIC CAMPBELL: Reznik also has doubts about Navalny, who calls himself a “nationalist democrat”.  Some of his videos about dark-skinned immigrants have been jaw droppingly offensive.  In 2007, he compared militant Chechens to cockroaches and suggested stronger ways to deal with them than slippers. 



ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle/YouTube channel/slaying Chechen] “In this case, I recommend a pistol”.


Reznik interview on park bench

MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “I have told him Russian nationalism can’t be enlightened.  It will always lead to extremes.  That is why it is wrong to challenge the authorities from this angle. We differ on this, though I think that Navalny is changing on this issue, either for genuine reasons or his own political gain”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: [subtitle] “Is Navalny a racist?”



MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “No, he’s not a racist, but I don’t agree with his views on ethnic minorities. I understand him saying there aren’t enough jobs for Russian citizens because of migrants. This is something that every country in the world is discussing. But our authorities aren’t discussing the question at all. They pretend it doesn’t exist”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: Despite his reservations, he plans to take part in tonight’s unsanctioned protest. 



MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “I don’t go to defend Navalny, I go to defend my country, because I believe that people should have the right to choose”.


Band plays in town square



Young woman texts. GFX:  14:48 – Happy Birthday No 1! Putin’s Young Guard send best wishes.



Campbell to camera walking along street

ERIC CAMPBELL: “We’ve been invited to meet the youth wing of the official pro-Putin party United Russia, which Navalny derides as Party Zhulikov y Vore, the party of crooks and thieves”.


United Russia party youth meeting

We’re taken into a conference room where young people are being trained to be tomorrow’s politicians.  The top item for discussion is how best to send a birthday tribute to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. 





Party youth take group selfie

And no surprise they decide on a group selfie.  The man holding the selfie-stick is a big player here.  We’ll be seeing him again.


RUSSIAN SELFIE MAN: [subtitle] “One, two, there, stop, stop, stop!  One, two three. 


Group selfie

Happy Birthday!  Vladimir Vladimirovich!”


Youth members create Putin initials on road

ERIC CAMPBELL: Then downstairs an awkward attempt to form Putin’s initials in the traffic.  They call themselves the party’s Young Guard and claim to have a 1000 members, all enraptured by their president.



POLINA SHEMYAKINA: “Oh yes we really like it and as for me I think that he is very intelligent and interesting person.  And not only just as a president, but just as a person.  As a man I think we have to be proud of him and that he is the leader of our country”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: “Well today Alexei Navalny who wants to be a president is having a protest here.  What do you think of him?”


POLINA SHEMYAKINA: “Frankly speaking I am not competent enough in this question”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: “But your personal opinion?”





POLINA SHEMYAKINA: “We are, I think it’s normal.  The pluralism of opinion and it’s okay”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: “But they’re not allowed to have a protest today”.


POLINA SHEMYAKINA: “Oh frankly speaking I don’t know”.


MAN: [subtitle/off camera] “Polina, Baranov has come, tell them they can interview him if needed”.


POLINA SHEMYAKINA: “So we have the politician”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: “We should talk to him, should we?”


POLINA SHEMYAKINA: “Yes if you want to, thank you”.


Baranov interview

ERIC CAMPBELL: The Young Guard leader, 21-year-old Dimtri Baranov.



DMITRI BARANOV: [subtitle] “They are inciting people to break the laws of the Russian Federation.  Personally, I condemn that.  Of course, the city authorities did not refuse permission for the Field of Mars protest without good reason.  They proposed alternative locations where they could hold the event”.


Pop video – Baby Boy

ERIC CAMPBELL: The Kremlin is trying to portray its young followers as the cool kids. 



“On a lovely, sunny day, he heads out for a protest.
His weak hands grip a poster closely to his chest”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: In May a pop song called ‘Baby Boy’ appeared, suggesting Navalny’s protestors were sad and lame.



“He just got back his history test, a big “D” stamped on top.
But someone promised him great riches, so long as he don’t stop.
The kid is just a puppet, nothing but a loser in life”.


Pop clip continues

ERIC CAMPBELL: The singer, St Petersburg pop star Alisa Vox, denied being paid by the Kremlin.  But she quickly withdrew the song after it was monstered on the internet.



“Freedom, money, girls you’ll get it all, even power. 
Just stay out of politics, kid, and give your brain a shower”.


Campbell to camera walking in square

ERIC CAMPBELL:  “Now there is one major event that’s been sanctioned for today and it’s here in the historic centre, in the square opposite the old Winter Palace.  Apparently, this is more in keeping with the policy of minimising public disruption.  It’s a biker rally”.


Biker rally and concert




ERIC CAMPBELL:  It’s been organised by Night Wolves, a national motorcycle gang fiercely loyal to Vladimir Putin.  They were one of the first to enter Crimea in 2014 after Putin invaded the Ukrainian province.



RUSSIAN SINGER: [subtitle] “The word of the people whose town survived”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: This song is about reclaiming the Crimean city of Sevastopol. 



RUSSIAN SINGER: [subtitle]
“We won’t leave our cities!
We will definitely get there!”


Sergeev at rally

ERIC CAMPBELL: But motorsports champion and journalist, Alexander Sergeev, says this is just a fun day out for families.


Sergeev interview

ALEXANDER SERGEEV: [subtitle] “It’s a present for every citizen in St Petersburg, including Putin, because Putin loves his city”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: [subtitle] “I am from Australia.  Can you tell me what your president is like?


ALEXANDER SERGEEV: [subtitle] “Putin?  You know, I think Putin is a fair president.  That is his most important quality.  And secondly, he’s patriotic.  Every president has to be patriotic.  Only then can he accomplish a lot for his people and his country”.




ERIC CAMPBELL: [subtitle] “Today is also the Navalny protest, do you think…”


ALEXANDER SERGEEV: [subtitle] “No, I think we need to pay less attention to all of those provocations, because we need more harmony, we need to come together”.



RUSSIAN SINGER: [subtitles]
“We are united with our blood and faiths,
Our hearts are stronger than stone”.



ERIC CAMPBELL: The Night Wolves aren’t friendly to everyone.  They have a rebel militia fighting in eastern Ukraine. 


Guy putting up movie poster

The Kremlin is pushing patriotism hard ahead of the elections. The Defence Department has even funded a blockbuster romantic film about the Crimean invasion.  Ticket sales have been rather slow.  More on that later. 


St Petersburg GVs



Katya singing on boat

RUSSIAN SONG: [subtitle]  
“Everything has lost its beauty and shine. 
Like I am Alice without her wonderland.
Like I’m trapped behind oppressive walls. 



But freedom outside my window was calling me. 
To join the wild wind for a stroll. 
Someone’s voice seemed to be luring me
Out into the amazing world. 
Someone’s voice was praising this magnificent world”.


Young women climbing on to roof

ERIC CAMPBELL: Many young people are answering a different call to the politicians. They just want to have fun. 


Campbell climbing on to roof

ERIC:  “This is fun.”


Young people on room

RUSSIAN SONG: [subtitles]
“As the beams of warmth played
I myself didn’t know where I was going
But I was walking a true path. 
And you won’t find me”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: This is a particular St Petersburg pastime called roofing. 


Dima on to roof

And Dima Ivanov does it every Saturday. 


DIMA IVANOV: [subtitle] “Why do we do this? First of all I enjoy it very much spending time in such lovely company.  We are surrounded only by lovely ladies. 


Dima interview

I enjoy the feeling, being in such lovely company.  The main aim is to socialise,


Young people on roof drinking wine/taking selfies

but we also contemplate and see our beautiful and iconic city from above.  We discover new outlooks”.


ERIC CAMPBELL:  It’s a reality check on expecting too much too soon from Russia’s new generation.  None of this group is going to the protest.  For most of them, roofing is a way to do something far more important – take wicked selfies. 


Lila interview

Lila, who’s 22, says she never even talks politics.


LILA: “We are young, we should do some… make some crazy things and don’t waste our time on politics.  Maybe it’s not right, but it’s my great view”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: “Well this is certainly crazy”.


LILA: “Yes”.


Grilling sausages on roof




ERIC CAMPBELL: For Dima, it’s a way to hang out with girls.


DIMA IVANOV: [subtitle] “As long as we have food, I don’t see any point protesting.  I understand those who do,


Dima interview

I don’t condemn them.  But I think the people are not mature enough to protest. Our people deserve the leader they have.  Obviously, Putin is corrupt, but we have to admit that we are all corrupt.  How can we ask for Putin to step down if we ourselves bribe traffic police, doctors… We are just as corrupt at Putin”.







Campbell to camera on roof

ERIC CAMPBELL: “As passionate as some young Russians are, it’s probably true that most young people aren’t that interested in politics.  By the same token, they’re also not that interested in what the Kremlin has to say.  They’re not going to care about the messages or the need for stability and avoiding the chaos of the ‘90s.  They’re certainly never going to watch state television.  So as powerful as Vladimir Putin is now, time is not on his side”.


Commuters on train.  GFX: 
16:49 – Long story short – everyone head to the Field of Mars!!!



Montage. Field of Mars protest

RUSSIAN SONG: [subtitle]
“The red shining sun is burning out. 
Taking with it the day. 
A shadow falls over the glowing city. 



That’s what our hearts demand. 
That’s what our eyes demand”. 


#ForNavalny protest

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Navalny’s people have chosen a large park called Field of Mars for the gathering. 


RUSSIAN SONG: [subtitle]
We are waiting for change”.


Park workers

ERIC CAMPBELL: By strange coincidence, the city government has just begun massive park renovations. Our camera isn’t welcome. 


Kostya filming

Kostya Andriotis has come with his crew to record what happens next.  Luckily for him he left the office just before it was raided and even more staff were arrested. 


Council workers

It’s past six o’clock, but the council workers are heroically working overtime. 




Kostya interview

square I don’t know more beautiful right in the moment when we are going to meet here”.


Park protest

ERIC CAMPBELL: Authorities have set up loud speakers urging them not to march. They also make a very special offer, the sort you’d normally only get on your birthday.


Loudspeakers. Warning broadcast

SPEAKERS AT PARK: [subtitle] “Unfortunately, you were lied to.  The rally hasn’t received permission, and the police will be forced to arrest anyone breaking the law. It will be unfair if you suffer because of other troublemakers. If this wasn’t in your plans, and you don’t want to waste your time for nothing, there is a free exclusive screening of the film “Crimea” in the nearby Motherland Cinema. [crowd laugh] The film will start at 6.30 pm.  You can get your tickets at the Field of Mars park entrance”. 


KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: “Now the government invite us for the propagandist film, Crimea.  They say they lied to us to organise this meeting and that this is an illegal meeting so they invite us for the Crimea film”.


People at rally

ERIC CAMPBELL:  One of their main worries is provocateurs – government plants coming to stir up trouble and give police an excuse to pounce. 


Young Guard member

And strangely enough we spot a face in the crowd that seems highly out of place.  Remember the selfie tribute to Putin from the Young Guard?


CAMPBELL:  “Oh hello. How are you?  What are you doing here?”


SELFIE RUSSIAN MAN: [subtitle] “What am I doing here? I’m just looking.  But I don’t like it here at all.  The mood is wrong.  You see, they’re all unhappy about something.  The people here aren’t pleasant.  I don’t find it interesting at all.  But of course, I’m here out of general interest.  I need to know what’s going on. Nothing more”.


ERIC CAMPBELL: [subtitle] “Thank you”.


Campbell to camera walking around park

 “Okay so fingers crossed it looks like police aren’t going to come in and do mass arrests this time, so the gathering can go ahead.  But here’s the thing, you may have noticed that there’s not the sort of things you’d normally see at a protest.  No one’s holding placards, no one’s holding speeches, no one’s saying what do we want, when do we want it.  Because to get around the law, they have to pretend this is not a protest, it’s simply a gathering of people going for a walk and hopefully that means there won’t be mass arrests.  That’s how democracy works in Russia today”.


Reznik at protest

MAXIM REZNIK: [subtitle] “I think the important thing is to have a lot of people here.  People are just out for a walk today. The Russian language is very rich.  If the authorities ban certain actions, we find another word for what we do.  So today, I’m on a walk for fair and competitive elections.  I’m not walking for Navalny, or for Putin’s birthday – I just want there to be free elections.  I like to walk in the city, and today I’m walking for this reason”.


Protestors chant

PROTESTORS CHANT: [subtitle] “Freedom!  Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”


ERIC CAMPBELL: As the light fades, the tension builds. 



PROTESTORS CHANT: [subtitle] “As long as we are united, we are invincible!”



ERIC CAMPBELL: The crowd grows increasingly agitated.  With Navalny in gaol, nobody’s in charge.



RUSSIAN SONG: [subtitle]
That’s what our hearts demand. 
That’s what our eyes demand”. 


Kostya marching

KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: [subtitle] “The crowd has made a move towards the Fontanka River. As far as I can tell, this is all happening spontaneously. 


March through streets





I don’t know what’s going on.  I don’t remember seeing a march like this for a very long time.  There was a march in 2012 that was sanctioned, but this is completely spontaneous.  Nothing like this has happened in St Petersburg for a very long time. Happy Birthday, Mr Putin!”


Protests chant and march

PROTESTORS CHANT: [subtitle] “Russia without Putin!  Russia without Putin!  Free Navalny!  Free Navalny! We are the power here!  We are the power here!  Russia without Putin!”


Campbell to camera on street

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Well the mood has just changed quite rapidly.  That’s the paramilitaries, the OMON who’ve just gone down there.  Cars are suddenly, police cars are blocking the street now.  People aren’t sure what to do.  More cars coming from up there.  It doesn’t feel like a nice peaceful, permissible protest anymore”.   


Police move in and make arrests

POLICE: [subtitle] “Clear the road!  Clear the road!”



KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: [subtitle] “There was just an attempt to break through the police line on Liteyny Avenue, but it failed. The police stood their ground”. 










Campbell on street watching arrests

ERIC CAMPBELL: [on street] “Well this is just extraordinary, there really is no need for the police to be doing this.  People have just been walking very peacefully down the road, not even blocking the road, walking down the sidewalk. Suddenly out of nowhere the paramilitaries have appeared and they are just dragging people into these buses to take them away.  We have to stay a bit back because there’s a chance we could be arrested too”. 


Kostya filming with selfie stick

KOSTYA ANDRIOTIS: [subtitle] “A woman is bleeding!  Her head is covered in blood!” 


PROTESTORS: [subtitle/shouting] “Shame! Shame! Murder!  Murder!”


Riot police confront protestors

ERIC CAMPBELL: Eventually, the crowd withdraws to a square, surrounded by riot police nicknamed cosmonauts for their space age helmets.  The protestors don’t seem in the least bit intimidated. 



By the end of Putin’s birthday, nearly 80 cities across Russia had followed Navalny’s call to hold protests.  State television didn’t show a single one.


Man at protest

MAN:  I love St Petersburg! Thank you.


Navalny with supporters




ERIC CAMPBELL:  Nearly two weeks later, we finally catch up with Alexei Navalny. The day he’s released from gaol he flies straight to southern Russia to keep a promise to address a rally. 



Navalny attends rally

Thousands brave the rain to see him. 


ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle/rally] Hello Astrakhan!



ERIC CAMPBELL:   For two hours he mesmerises the crowd, telling them politics is not something that happens above them, but something they can control.


Navalny address crowd

ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle/rally] “Do you need a monarchy?”


RALLY CROWD: [subtitle] “No!”


ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle] “I don’t need a monarchy. All I want is a normal life which we can easily get tomorrow.  We have enough money for all of that”.


Campbell with Navalny at rally

ERIC CAMPBELL: And at last I can ask him the key question.


[subtitle] “The government says you can’t become a candidate until 2028.  What can you do about that?”


ALEXEI NAVALNY: [subtitle] “The government would prefer I never become a candidate at all, never campaign, never investigate corruption.  I am not interested in what the government thinks.  I am going to these elections to change the government, to remove them from power. 



I know that under the constitution, I have every right to run in these elections. Many people support me and demand the right for me to stand.  If I am not allowed to run, then this procedure cannot be called elections.  We will call for a widespread boycott so that no normal decent person will vote.  Thank you”.





Navalny on stage at rally

ERIC CAMPBELL:  The truth is Navalny is unlikely to run in March and I doubt that’s his intention.  This is a long game.  Putin’s next term is probably his last and Navalny is building a national movement to compete for succession. 


Navalny with supporters

This beguiling, controversial politician has lit a fire in Russia’s new generation.  As Putin approaches the end of his reign, they’re just getting started.



ELENA MOZAVETSAKAYA: [subtitle] “I can’t leave, I can’t stop… because



I just can’t imagine how I can stop because, it’s like for this chance is the only one to change something.  And I just can’t miss it”. 


Family sing in park

RUSSIAN SONG: [subtitle]
“It’s so sad that a birthday
can only happen once a year. 
It’s so sad that a birthday
can only happen once a year”.






Reporter - Eric Campbell

Producer - Matt Davis

Camera - Matt Marsic, Matt Davis

Editor - Garth Thomas

Executive Producer - Marianne Leitch

© 2017


Out point after credits




© 2013 Journeyman Pictures
Journeyman Pictures Ltd. 4-6 High Street, Thames Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0RY, United Kingdom

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