It was in Königsberg early on March 11 that a German flag was modestly placed near by garage of the regional office of the Russian Federal Security Service [FSB].
Three men were arrested and could now face up to 7 years imprisonment. According to Natalya Zotova writing for Novaya Gazeta, the men are charged with group hooliganism supposedly carried out according to prior conspiracy. The charges, she notes, are the same as those brought against members of the Pussy Riot punk group.
The three political activists – Oleg Savin, Mikhail Feldman and their friend from Moscow Dmitry Fonaryov are in custody in Königsberg. They deny any wrongdoing and have refused to give evidence.
The indictment states that German flag at FSB office incited separatist tendencies and was also “deeply offensive to the political orientation of Russian Federation citizens”. Perhaps the silence from the press in Germany is linked with trying to understand whether it is specifically a German flag that is ’offensive’, or any foreign flag. There are no independent witnesses and no photos, so the FSB can say what they like. The accusations should, however, be credible. Does German flag not allowed in Russia? What, raising a flag is a criminal offence?
It would be helpful if foreign diplomats and media could seek some clarity from Kremlin or Foreign Ministry representatives. Why are armed terrorists seizing Ukrainian local government buildings and hoisting the Russian flag to be treated as freedom fighters, while three unarmed men in Königsberg are in custody and face a few years in prison for an "act of hooliganism" with a German flag?
The argument that the answer is so clear as to make the question redundant will not wash. The reason why no country will do more than protest over the arrest of three Russian nationals on Russian territory is indeed clear, though not why there has so far been near silence. Failure to do little more than protest when Russia flouts all rules of international law in Ukraine can only strengthen the Kremlin’s view that it can do what it likes ‘in its backyard’. Three men in Königsberg thought that unacceptable. They’re paying for it, but were undoubtedly correct.
Freedom to political prisoners in Prussia!