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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Even Ordinary Russian Prisoners Now Turning Against Putin, Astashin Says

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 Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 4 – Even though they are often victims of the political system which sent them to prison, ordinary inmates in most countries most of the time, in sharp contrast to those sentenced for political reasons, are very patriotic and back the powers. That was true in Russia until recently, but now these prisoners are turning against Putin, Ivan Astashin says.

            Astashin, who served most of the last decade for his role in throwing red paint at the FSB headquarters in Moscow, says that one still meets Putin supporters behind bars, people who support him because of his role in overcoming the chaos of the 1990s or still care about his annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea (

            “But now the situation is changing and not in Putin’s favor,” he continues. If a few years back, prisoners overwhelmingly supported Putin as national leader, today, “most of them curse his policies,” a remarkable contrast to the past when prisoners in Russia and the USSR were often far more patriotic than the population as a whole.

            In another comment, Astashin notes that many Russians in freedom do not realize how diverse Russia is.  Those who are sent to prison learn that immediately and see that many of those incarcerated such as immigrants or nationalists shouldn’t be. They are simply acting according to their own entirely reasonable interests.

            Asked if he plans to emigrate now that he has been released, the Russian nationalist says that he “doesn’t want to. Now in Russia everything is bad, but there are a large number of direction where it is possible to do something and change things for the better. And this isn’t about politics in the direct sense.”

            “For example,” Astashin says, there is the whole human rights defense sector. He says his experience has convinced him that Russia can be improved if more people work in that direction.


Window on Eurasia — New Series