I was interrogated for seven hours and saw random people arrested. But the orchestrated hate and xenophobia I witnessed at Channel One was truly chilling
It takes a lot to shock me in Russia, after 45 years of studying it. But this month my blood ran cold. Not because I watched innocent kids being hauled off the street by thuggish riot forces, and not because I was myself arrested and questioned by police for seven hours – though those incidents played a part – but because of what I witnessed in a Russian state television studio. But let’s start at the beginning …
On “Russia day”, 12 June, thousands of people protested in central Moscow against Vladimir Putin and his kleptocratic clique. There was no rhyme or reason to the arrests that followed. “National guards” in black tunics sliced through the crowd in groups of five, snatching random people and hustling them into police vans. You might have been holding a Russian flag (on Russia day!), you might have been chanting “Russia without Putin”, or you might just have been watching, or even – in one case – explaining to an interviewer why you supported Putin … nothing protected you.
I turned to the hate-leader during a commercial break and asked her if she had read Orwell. She didn’t know who he was