02/03/2012 Newsnight


02/03/2012

Wounded British photojournalist Paul Conroy on Syria, David Cameron loses a key advisor and Russia goes to the polls. With Gavin Elser.


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The Syrian army stops the Red Cross gaining access to Baba Amr, scene

:00:08.:00:13.

of the bloodiest shelling of civilians. What is really going on

:00:13.:00:19.

in the area around Homs. We talk to Paul Conroy, the wounded British

:00:19.:00:22.

photo journalist, smuggled out three days ago, who said his

:00:22.:00:27.

colleague, Marie Colvin, died trying to alert the world to the

:00:27.:00:30.

slaughter they witnessed. We have lost a good friend, and one of the

:00:30.:00:35.

best has been taken from us, I salute her and I will go back and

:00:35.:00:41.

get her when the time is right, and bring her home. Steve Hilton, David

:00:41.:00:46.

Cameron's back room brains has quit Downing Street for California. Is

:00:46.:00:52.

he taking Cameron's mojo with him. We will ask what his friends and

:00:52.:00:56.

enemies think the Prime Minister will miss.

:00:56.:01:00.

In Russia, as they vote for the new boss, he looks like the old boss.

:01:00.:01:06.

Will they get fooled again? Russia's protest movement is

:01:06.:01:09.

getting stronger and better organised. With Vladimir Putin

:01:09.:01:12.

certain to win the upcoming presidential elections, what can it

:01:12.:01:22.
:01:22.:01:25.

Good evening, the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon,

:01:25.:01:31.

said tonight, that he feared Syrian Government forces were ash trairly

:01:31.:01:37.

executing and torturing people in the city of Homs. The Syrian army

:01:37.:01:44.

agreed to let the Red Cross and Red Crescent into the city today, but

:01:44.:01:52.

refused to let them into Baba Amr, which they have been pounding for

:01:52.:01:55.

days. Our diplomatic editor has been trying to figure out what is

:01:55.:02:02.

happening. What is happening in Homs, as far as we know? The city

:02:02.:02:06.

status is the cradle of opposition to the regime. One of the key

:02:06.:02:09.

focuses of it is not extinguished, but the opposition has suffered a

:02:10.:02:16.

heavy blow there. If we look in detail at the map. The reason it

:02:16.:02:20.

became such a centre for opposition, it is very close to the border,

:02:20.:02:23.

that allowed people to get in and out, particularly through the

:02:23.:02:27.

western approach, through the rural area, to the west of the city, to

:02:27.:02:32.

Baba Amr, which is within that circle. It was the route for people,

:02:32.:02:36.

guns, money, journalists to get in and out, and all the rest of it.

:02:36.:02:42.

That is what made it such a focus and caldron for both sides. The

:02:42.:02:46.

opposition forces thought they could hold on to it, and for some

:02:46.:02:49.

weeks, during the pounding, it seemed they comfortable but the

:02:49.:02:52.

Assad regime was gathering its forces and preparing what it was

:02:52.:02:57.

going to do next. If we look in closer still, we can describe what

:02:57.:03:03.

happened, over the last few days. That's Baba Amr again. Just the

:03:03.:03:09.

centre of it. I will put the symbol for the Free Syrian Army fighters

:03:09.:03:12.

in there. The Government already held positions in some

:03:12.:03:15.

neighbourhoods, where people are loyal to them, in the centre of

:03:15.:03:20.

town, and extended, during these weeks of bombardment, extended its

:03:20.:03:24.

position in areas like the university. In recent days, they

:03:24.:03:28.

have moved armour from, it is believed, the President's brothers

:03:28.:03:32.

division, the mechanised division, to interdict these groups in and

:03:32.:03:35.

out of the city to the west. That is what the journalist, who were

:03:35.:03:39.

trying to escape, had to run the gauntlet of that. Around Tuesday,

:03:40.:03:46.

other armoured units from the resident brigade, the 90th Brigade,

:03:46.:03:51.

went in and cut off the northern route in and out of Baba Amr as

:03:51.:03:56.

well. Once that situation had become a reality for the fighters

:03:56.:04:02.

in there, power was gone, water was gone, they ordered a withdrawal.

:04:02.:04:11.

They decided to quit Baba Amr. That seems to have happened Wednesday

:04:11.:04:15.

night, with the Free Syrian Army announcing it on Thursday. Was

:04:15.:04:21.

there an assault, as such, or did the Syrian army just drive in? It

:04:21.:04:25.

seems to be more the latter. Where does it leave the humanitarian

:04:25.:04:29.

situation for the people there? Desperate. Before this happened,

:04:29.:04:33.

about 100,000 people living in the area. Syrian Government aired these

:04:33.:04:38.

pictures this morning, we can tell they are recent because of the snow.

:04:38.:04:40.

That is south towards the university area. Look at the state

:04:40.:04:45.

of the houses, many hit on the upper storeys during the weeks of

:04:45.:04:48.

bombardment. What horror lurks there, people who have died in

:04:48.:04:53.

their homes, or struggling to survive on the meagre food and

:04:53.:04:57.

water they have. That is another view from the tall building at Baba

:04:57.:05:02.

Amr, it authenticates the cameraman was there, we can identify the

:05:02.:05:05.

mosque, and so where the footage was taken. They are in control,

:05:05.:05:08.

they have a ghost town, they have thousands of people in a desperate

:05:08.:05:13.

condition there. That, perhaps, has motivated their decision not to let

:05:13.:05:20.

the Red Cross in. Are they engaged in some sort of clearout, or as the

:05:20.:05:22.

opposition alleges, in there murdering people. However you look

:05:22.:05:27.

at it, tactical withdrawal or not, it is a big setback for the

:05:27.:05:33.

opposition? It is. If you like, it must empower people around

:05:33.:05:36.

President Assad who think they can resolve some of these issues by

:05:36.:05:43.

force. If we go in and look closely. Homs was a divided city, the yellow

:05:43.:05:47.

areas represent the pro-Government strongholds, if you like. Now, of

:05:47.:05:50.

course, Government troops in Baba Amr, in the north of the city, that

:05:50.:05:55.

is the last remaining area where the Free Syrian Army still has

:05:55.:05:58.

fighters in Homs itself. The battle is moving north within the city,

:05:58.:06:03.

and within the country, to other places north of Homs, like Idlib. A

:06:03.:06:07.

last couple of images to show the sort of people that will be facing

:06:07.:06:12.

the onslaught next. These are biders in Bider taken a couple of

:06:12.:06:16.

days ago. Quite a professionally put together position there, that

:06:16.:06:19.

will take some punishment. Some evidence that arms are coming

:06:19.:06:27.

through, perhaps, they say, from black market sources in Lebanon. An

:06:27.:06:35.

AK rifle, fitted with a sniper glass, so more modern than the army.

:06:35.:06:40.

The Government is planning to move to other places further north. They

:06:40.:06:43.

think they can do it by force. My assessment would be they don't have

:06:44.:06:48.

enough people to do it in all the places simultaneously, where

:06:48.:06:51.

opposition now rages. Last weekend the British

:06:51.:06:54.

photographer, Paul Conroy, was working with the Sunday Times

:06:54.:06:58.

reporter, Marie Colvin, in Homs, when she was killed, alongside the

:06:58.:07:01.

French journalist, Remi Ochlik. Paul Conroy and several others were

:07:01.:07:04.

wounded. He has finally made his way back to a hospital in London. I

:07:04.:07:08.

met him earlier tonight. Can we start with what happened

:07:08.:07:14.

when you were hit, what was that moment like? It was, traumatic,

:07:14.:07:21.

instant chaos. A few shells had hit the house, the final shell that

:07:21.:07:26.

Marie, and Remi, my friend, everything went black, I felt a

:07:26.:07:31.

huge pressure in my leg, put my hand down, put my hand straight

:07:31.:07:36.

through my leg, realised it was bad, stuck a tourniquet on, and

:07:36.:07:40.

essentially tried to crawl out of the house where I found Marie. From

:07:40.:07:48.

that point on it was really all hell broke lose. It took 15 minutes

:07:48.:07:52.

and we were finally evacuated to a field hospital, with the doctors,

:07:52.:07:58.

with very limited supplies. Basics, they did what they could to fill

:07:58.:08:04.

the holes. From that point on we entered the very basic Baba Amr

:08:04.:08:07.

healthcare system. Over the next couple of days, what did you see? I

:08:07.:08:11.

know you feel very much for the suffering of the Syrians around

:08:11.:08:17.

you? Absolutely. The situation, I mean I have done a fair few wars, I

:08:17.:08:21.

have never seen anything on this level. It is a bit of misnomer to

:08:21.:08:27.

call it a warzone, there is no actual war. The Free Syrian Army do

:08:27.:08:32.

their best to get in things like bread, and evacuate anyone. There

:08:32.:08:36.

are no targets in Baba Amr, there are no military targets, this is

:08:36.:08:42.

pure and utter, systematic slaughter of a civilian population.

:08:42.:08:47.

There is nothing. You and Marie, of course, knew in one sense, what you

:08:47.:08:51.

were getting in to, people at home will wonder why on earth anyone

:08:51.:08:59.

does this? There are places in the world that light is very rarely

:08:59.:09:03.

shone, unless people do go. We live in an age where we have the

:09:03.:09:07.

Internet and YouTube, we see these videos, what happens is people will

:09:07.:09:11.

take it, the regime will take it and put their commentry on, the

:09:11.:09:16.

activists will put their commentry on, it leads to more confusion. I

:09:16.:09:21.

think it is a necessity, otherwise we sit by and this will happen

:09:21.:09:27.

without any witness, I think it is important to bear witness. Marie

:09:27.:09:32.

was passionate about getting the truth out, about fact, attention to

:09:32.:09:38.

detail. That was unsurpassed. She would go for the detail. You see in

:09:38.:09:42.

a news report with unverified, that is not good enough for me, and for

:09:42.:09:48.

Marie, and the few people who do this. I just think it is critically

:09:48.:09:52.

important, these people are being slaughtered, massacred, and there

:09:52.:09:56.

is nobody there, we will all get on with eating our dinner, and this

:09:56.:10:00.

will happen, and in ten years time we will all be wringing our hands

:10:00.:10:04.

going why didn't anybody do anything. I know you can't go into

:10:04.:10:09.

details about how you got out. Give us some idea about how you did it?

:10:09.:10:14.

There was a lull in the shelling, we were piled. It was the Free

:10:14.:10:16.

Syrian Army took, it was a last ditch, they had wounded of their

:10:16.:10:24.

own to get out. They knew we were in a bad shape, edit was

:10:24.:10:30.

deteriorating, it was -- Edith was deteriorating, it was a proper

:10:30.:10:36.

American out of the embassy, type, we have one shot at this. They

:10:36.:10:40.

threw us into vehicles, there was a lot of sniping, there were shells

:10:40.:10:44.

going out. They got us to the escape place. Half of us got out,

:10:44.:10:53.

the Government shot, lots of people got shot, including the Spanish

:10:53.:10:57.

journalist who was shot, not fatal low. A lot of people lost their

:10:57.:11:00.

lives. I was in a room, they started piling bodies in, people

:11:00.:11:04.

shot through the head. I can only say the people who got us out of

:11:04.:11:09.

Baba Amr, every person in there is a hero, but these people especially

:11:09.:11:16.

put their lives on the line and I can only say the biggest thanks to

:11:16.:11:19.

the Syrian people. Just about yourself, have you got all the bits

:11:19.:11:23.

of shrapnel out of your body? is a few bits still in there, they

:11:23.:11:27.

are not going to chase them. They reckon they will eventually pop out

:11:27.:11:32.

on their own one day and I will be able with a pair of tweezers, I

:11:32.:11:37.

don't know how it comes out. have a souvenir by your bed? This

:11:37.:11:44.

is a present from, probably the Russians, this one. You know really,

:11:44.:11:48.

the Syrians had the unfortunate situation where they happened to be

:11:48.:11:56.

under siege during Putin's election campaign. And now that is him doing

:11:56.:12:00.

all he can to help the poor people of Baba Amr. Finally, you must

:12:00.:12:08.

think a lot about Marie? Yeah. I mean, extremely close friend. A

:12:08.:12:13.

journalist who worked to a standard that is unsurpassed. I don't know

:12:13.:12:18.

anyone who had the tenacity, the bravery, all in one package. She

:12:18.:12:23.

would not let go. This is why I have really got to tell this. She

:12:23.:12:28.

was the best of the best, and I worked all last year in Libya with

:12:28.:12:34.

her, we worked in Iraq ten years ago together. The world, we have

:12:34.:12:41.

all lost a good friend, and one of the best has been taken from us. I

:12:41.:12:44.

salute her, and I will go back and get her when the time is right.

:12:44.:12:50.

Bring her home. Paul, thank you very much.

:12:50.:12:56.

No problem, cheers, thanks. Steve Hilton is one of those people

:12:56.:13:00.

who pull the levers of power, without generally ever appearing in

:13:00.:13:06.

public it's regards at David Cameron's closest adviser, but has

:13:06.:13:10.

-- and is regarded as David Cameron's closest adviser. But he

:13:10.:13:17.

has quit to go to a job in California. He's credited with the

:13:17.:13:24.

Cameron's Big Idea and The Big Idea society. Why has he gone? It is

:13:24.:13:28.

largely family reasons. His wife lives in America, she commutes from

:13:28.:13:32.

America to London. Two small kids, the first of whom goes next

:13:32.:13:36.

September, if they are going to get out and go and live in sunny

:13:36.:13:42.

California, now is the time. We would be kidding ourselves if

:13:42.:13:46.

anyone walked away from Government, he had an office next to the Prime

:13:46.:13:51.

Minister, for purely the sun. It is not much fun to be Steve Hilton.

:13:51.:13:55.

He's thwarted often, eventhough he has massive access to the Prime

:13:55.:14:02.

Minister, he has found the Civil Service frustrating. The icon yum

:14:02.:14:05.

of transition doesn't translate easy. The coalition, he adored the

:14:05.:14:10.

Lib Dems and then he came to believe they were more conservative

:14:10.:14:17.

than he was. It is 55% family, you don't go, however, making the

:14:17.:14:22.

decision, unless you feel thwarted. What will he do there? It is

:14:22.:14:27.

acedemia for a year. International studies, fatastically vague. He

:14:27.:14:32.

will do some work for Cameron. He will still be sending in the ideas

:14:32.:14:40.

via e-mail. He will come back in 2013, when kid number one goes to

:14:40.:14:46.

school. He has talked in the past wanting to do Meryl stuff, this is

:14:46.:14:50.

the -- mayoral stuff, this is the stuff he has been pushing through

:14:50.:14:54.

wanting mayors in other places. We will see more of him not less. He

:14:54.:14:57.

is a big figure, which, no doubt, others will talk about. If they

:14:57.:15:01.

have a legacy, this Government, it will be in large part down to him.

:15:01.:15:04.

He pushed through some unpopular stuff on welfare and education.

:15:05.:15:10.

While we parody him as the Big Society brain, which didn't really

:15:10.:15:14.

brilliantly work, and maybe, in part, why he has decided to leave.

:15:14.:15:17.

There are the other nitty gritty things, in Downing Street, might

:15:17.:15:20.

have failed. He would like to go, do a bit of thinking in the

:15:20.:15:25.

sunshine, and then come back and run as mayor? I think he will

:15:25.:15:30.

probably come back, but it will possibly be to a frontline role

:15:31.:15:35.

himself, rather than necessarily being an adviser, when it is not

:15:35.:15:42.

masses of fun being an adviser when you are not getting your way.

:15:43.:15:48.

Thank you. Joining me is the former speech writing for David Cameron,

:15:48.:15:53.

and Lynn Collins from the Times. You know him well, what kind of

:15:53.:16:01.

person is he? He's nice, very funny, he zings with ideas. He's an

:16:01.:16:04.

enthusiast, he's very passionate and an idealist, he wants to make

:16:04.:16:08.

things happen, he wants to see changes. He has very good attention

:16:08.:16:12.

to detail, which he's not given credit for. In all that sense, is

:16:12.:16:17.

he a bit of a loss for David Cameron? I think he's a loss for

:16:17.:16:20.

David Cameron on a personal level, they are very close. It was said

:16:20.:16:25.

when they are seen batting around ideas it is hard to see where David

:16:25.:16:28.

Cameron begins and Hilton ends, they are so close. But David

:16:28.:16:31.

Cameron is now very comfortable with being Prime Minister, it is a

:16:31.:16:36.

biggest loss to the coalition, he is the ideas man, and he is the one

:16:36.:16:40.

who says why are we doing that, why not do it differently. Do you see

:16:40.:16:44.

him as a big loss? Most advisers come and go and nobody notices,

:16:44.:16:48.

Steve Hilton made a big difference, but mostly in opposition. I think

:16:48.:16:53.

the way people see the Conservative Party changed, and Steve Hilton saw

:16:53.:16:55.

that early. He was clever in identifying what was wrong in the

:16:55.:16:58.

way people viewed the Tory Party. That was hugely important for David

:16:58.:17:02.

Cameron? Yes, in the change of the Tory Party. He has a real legacy, I

:17:02.:17:05.

think he really made a difference. I don't think that translated

:17:05.:17:08.

anywhere near as well into Government. Governments go through

:17:08.:17:12.

phases, and Downing Street will be quite a lot less creative for his

:17:12.:17:16.

absence, but perhaps a little bit more organised. A bit duller?

:17:16.:17:20.

think they need to be a bit duller. It has been the opposite of dull on

:17:20.:17:24.

the NHS bill, the period of dullness is what they need, they

:17:24.:17:29.

need to get dull people in there to do some very conventional political

:17:29.:17:32.

intelligence, and drive it through. In terms of the Big Society, I know

:17:32.:17:35.

people in the Conservative Party, some of them have thought this was

:17:35.:17:41.

a completely daft idea, it is one thing to have lots of ideas, but it

:17:41.:17:44.

is presumptionably the Prime Minister's job to say that one will

:17:44.:17:49.

work and that won't, with the Big Society there will be less

:17:49.:17:53.

impetuous on it? David Cameron believes in the Big Society, Steve

:17:53.:17:57.

Hilton didn't impose it on the Prime Minister, he genuinely and

:17:57.:18:00.

passionately believes in it. It is important to remember the last time

:18:01.:18:05.

Steve went to California in opposition, the Tories were doing

:18:05.:18:09.

very well and were 45% in the polls, and the Big Society was part of the

:18:09.:18:14.

language being used. It was when he went and the language went on to

:18:14.:18:17.

convention issues like cuts and crime, that the Tories began to

:18:17.:18:23.

drop. It was a myth that the Big Society was not a success, it was

:18:23.:18:27.

doing well elect trally. Given his energy, he was somebody who

:18:27.:18:32.

embodied that within the party? has been hard to translate it into

:18:32.:18:38.

policy. It is hard to take the Big Society from an ethereal idea and

:18:38.:18:42.

embody it as a real policy. I don't think it has translated

:18:42.:18:44.

particularly well. It is interesting the Prime Minister

:18:44.:18:48.

hasn't mentioned it for quite a long time. It will be intriguing to

:18:48.:18:52.

see, coming up to the conference speech, whether the Big Society

:18:52.:18:56.

features as a theme in the conference speech. It is still the

:18:56.:18:59.

only overarching idea the Government has. It has gone missing.

:18:59.:19:02.

Can either of you see him coming back into frontline politic, again,

:19:02.:19:05.

one of the things about people who have lots of ideas, they also rub

:19:05.:19:09.

other people up the wrong way, and actually being in frontline

:19:09.:19:14.

politics means not making unnecessary enemies? I think he is

:19:14.:19:20.

telling people he doesn't need to come back after a year, it is

:19:20.:19:23.

unlikely he will come back to the same role. He wants to make change

:19:23.:19:26.

and make things happen, there is a very good chance, not a definite

:19:26.:19:29.

chance, a good chance he will come back and do something such as

:19:29.:19:33.

perhaps going for the mayor or something like that. I think Steve

:19:33.:19:36.

Hilton is searching for where power is in Britain, I think he has got

:19:36.:19:39.

to the side of the Prime Minister, and got into Government, in Downing

:19:39.:19:42.

Street, he has found power isn't quite there, because you are

:19:42.:19:47.

thwarted at every turn, and the Civil Service seem to run things

:19:47.:19:50.

without you doing anything. He will be become, people who know him well

:19:50.:19:54.

say that, he will seek out power in some other guise. I wonder, going

:19:54.:19:57.

back to what you were saying, driving things through, whether

:19:57.:20:00.

people do enough thinking in politic. It is a good idea if you

:20:00.:20:05.

have a big thinker to take a break and think some ideas and come back?

:20:05.:20:09.

I think you are absolutely right. It is such a maelstrom of events,

:20:09.:20:12.

there is not nearly enough thinking, that is why he's so important

:20:12.:20:16.

because he does think. I totally agree, I have said to people there

:20:16.:20:19.

you have to find space and take time out to think, without thinking

:20:19.:20:22.

you are just reacting to events. The Government needs a strong

:20:22.:20:25.

narrative, which perhaps it doesn't have at the moment, because it is

:20:25.:20:28.

all a narrative for cuts. It is more boring for political

:20:28.:20:31.

journalist, perhaps? I don't want to give the impression I'm against

:20:31.:20:35.

thinking, I'm strongly in favour of people thinking. I don't want them

:20:35.:20:38.

doing it while in Government, they are dangerous. What it meant is the

:20:38.:20:42.

Government, over the next two years, in the run up to the election, is

:20:42.:20:47.

in the implementation phase of its cycle. The health bill, for example,

:20:47.:20:50.

doesn't even begin until it goes through the House of Commons. Then

:20:50.:20:55.

it starts to really count. And you need that vigilence all the time.

:20:55.:20:58.

It is quite hard conventional political work. Number Ten at the

:20:58.:21:01.

moment is very, very underpowered on its political operation. I think

:21:01.:21:05.

if David Cameron uses this as an opportunity to get some fairly

:21:05.:21:08.

conventional political advice in there, and beef up his operation,

:21:08.:21:13.

actually it won't be such a bad day for him.

:21:13.:21:16.

On Sunday Russians go to the polls to vote in their presidential

:21:16.:21:20.

elections, everyone knows who will win. It seems certain that Vladimir

:21:20.:21:23.

Putin will be re-elected for a third term, although after recent

:21:23.:21:27.

weeks of protests, unprecedented since the last days of the Soviet

:21:27.:21:32.

Union, his next presidency may be more turbulent than the last. We're

:21:32.:21:42.
:21:42.:21:43.

in Moscow assessing the mood of the opposition ahead of Sunday's poll.

:21:43.:21:49.

In Moscow's Gorky Park, it is time for a knees up.

:21:49.:21:57.

The end of the long Russian winter is almost in sight.

:21:58.:22:03.

They are celebrating mass lenitza, the carnival before Lent, the last

:22:03.:22:08.

chance to fill up on pancakes. I have been coming to goarkyo park

:22:08.:22:12.

since I first lived in Russia -- Gorky Park, since I first lived in

:22:12.:22:15.

Russia, back in communist times. It was always a place of licensed

:22:15.:22:20.

entertainment, where the masses could play, as long as they towed

:22:20.:22:26.

the party line. And loyalty has been expected of them again since

:22:26.:22:31.

Vladimir Putin came to power many years ago. Now something is going

:22:31.:22:37.

wrong. TRANSLATION: I want to -- want to know if life is as sweet as

:22:37.:22:46.

a Russian pancake. She says it is just as round! She says everything

:22:46.:22:50.

goes round in circles, in a political sense too, she's

:22:50.:22:53.

referring to Putin's plan to come back as President, after a term as

:22:53.:23:00.

Prime Minister. But now there are people, even in

:23:00.:23:05.

Gorky Park, who have had enough of him. TRANSLATION: I will vote

:23:05.:23:09.

against Putin, I don't support his policies, I will vote for one of

:23:09.:23:14.

the others. We shouldn't go backwards. Putin has already been

:23:14.:23:19.

President before, and I think his time has run out. TRANSLATION:

:23:19.:23:23.

think the presidency of Vladimir Putin's shouldn't be repeated so

:23:23.:23:32.

often. Why? TRANSLATION: There is too much corruption in Russia.

:23:32.:23:38.

Where did the rebellion begin? One place was this quiet forest outside

:23:38.:23:43.

Moscow, where a young entrepeneur and mother liked to go walking.

:23:43.:23:48.

Suddenly, one day, five years ago, she discovered many of the trees

:23:48.:23:54.

were marked for felling. TRANSLATION: There were trees all

:23:54.:24:00.

over here, this was terrible Barberism to destroy a forest near

:24:00.:24:07.

Moscow, here we managed to stop them. These activists helped her

:24:07.:24:11.

stop the plan to build a motorway here. The plan of a tycoon closely

:24:11.:24:16.

linked to the Kremlin. They were injured in battles with police and

:24:16.:24:22.

contractors, and for now, they have won, though they keep a constant

:24:22.:24:30.

vigil here. But she wants -- once apolitical as most Russians, is no

:24:30.:24:34.

longer fighting for trees, she's one of the leaders of a movement

:24:34.:24:38.

fighting for a new democratic Russia without Vladimir Putin.

:24:38.:24:42.

TRANSLATION: Five years ago I was a typically anonymous person, I

:24:42.:24:46.

thought it was only a few crazy city types who went on

:24:46.:24:52.

demonstrations. I ran my business, I got three university degrees, I

:24:52.:24:57.

raised two children, all by the age of 35, but I always thought there

:24:57.:25:01.

was something wrong. What did I need all the money for? Then, when

:25:01.:25:05.

I saw the trees account down, I started to think, should I live --

:25:05.:25:08.

cut down, I started to think, should I live differently, you

:25:09.:25:13.

can't buy another forest, I didn't come to politics, politics came to

:25:13.:25:18.

me. Suddenly, Russians like these have turned from subjects of the

:25:18.:25:22.

state into citizens. They are no longer satisfied with the material

:25:22.:25:26.

comforts that Vladimir Putin can offer, they want a say in the

:25:26.:25:29.

running of their country. But are there enough of them, and are they

:25:29.:25:39.

organised enough for the Kremlin to care?

:25:39.:25:44.

The answer is, yes. This pro- Government video paints an

:25:44.:25:51.

apocalyptic picture of Russia without Putin.

:25:51.:25:56.

The country dissolves into anarchy, Chirikova and her opposition

:25:56.:26:00.

friends take over, and their alleged backers in the west are

:26:00.:26:09.

delighted. Can a woman, who spends so much of her time looking after

:26:09.:26:14.

her daughters in her tiny flat really scare the Kremlin so much?

:26:14.:26:18.

TRANSLATION: Of course, they are afraid of me. But it is the same as

:26:18.:26:22.

when they tried to discredit dissidents in Soviet times t has

:26:22.:26:26.

the opposite effect. People want to know where they are abusing us.

:26:26.:26:31.

Then they get interested. Then they join us. Today she's being

:26:31.:26:36.

photographed outside a polling station, for an internet campaign

:26:36.:26:41.

to recruit election monitors. We are confronted by an angry

:26:41.:26:48.

official, who wants us to leave. Back home the photo is uploaded and

:26:48.:26:53.

will be seen all over Russia. These young people are already

:26:53.:26:56.

being trained by an independent organisation to observe proceedings

:26:56.:27:03.

in polling stations next Sunday. But there aren't enough volunteers

:27:03.:27:05.

like this, particularly outside Moscow, to cover all the polling

:27:05.:27:11.

stations in the country. And maybe the result has already been decided

:27:11.:27:17.

any way. I think we will rewrite the result documents, through the

:27:17.:27:20.

electoral commissions, where we will give all result documents from

:27:20.:27:24.

polling stations and they will calculate, and if they don't see

:27:24.:27:29.

that the result which they need, so they will just put another number.

:27:29.:27:33.

But I don't think that way they will cheat a lot on the voting day

:27:33.:27:37.

from the polling stations, there will be a lot of observers to

:27:37.:27:43.

prevent those violations and prevent them. So usually when they

:27:43.:27:48.

are trying to rewrite their result document, there are no observers to

:27:48.:27:53.

see this process, so it is quite easy to do this.

:27:53.:27:57.

The fear that the election will be stolen brings thousands of

:27:57.:28:01.

Muscovites out on to the streets, a week before the poll, to form a

:28:01.:28:06.

symbolic ring around the city. Most wear the white ribbon, that has

:28:06.:28:09.

become the badge of the fair elections movement. Bizarrely,

:28:09.:28:17.

puten to said they looked like flaccid condoms, now in satirical

:28:17.:28:20.

response, they are waving blown up ones. Yevgenia Chirikova is here

:28:20.:28:24.

too, in carnival costume, to celebrate what she calls the

:28:24.:28:27.

approaching end of Russia's political winter. TRANSLATION:

:28:27.:28:31.

most important thing is to change the way people think. We are not

:28:31.:28:37.

struggling for power, we are struggling to drown this slave

:28:37.:28:40.

mentality out of ourselves. On a day like this you really feel there

:28:40.:28:46.

is a new spirit in Moscow, for people who have woken up

:28:46.:28:50.

politically, their demands remain so general s it is still not clear

:28:50.:28:56.

what they can achieve. In any case, the opposition is

:28:56.:28:59.

still largely urban and middle- class, it doesn't represent the

:28:59.:29:05.

whole of Russia. The man they want to beat still

:29:05.:29:10.

bestrides his country's stage. He would probably still be able, even

:29:10.:29:14.

in a fair election, to win a mandate a western politician would

:29:14.:29:17.

consider acceptable, even if not a genuine majority of votes. He has

:29:17.:29:22.

no clear programme, only the same patriotic rhetoric that hasn't

:29:22.:29:29.

changed in years. TRANSLATION: have come here today to say we love

:29:29.:29:35.

Russia. To say it so that the whole country can hear us. And I'm asking

:29:35.:29:40.

you to say a simple yes, the question is this, do we love

:29:40.:29:50.

Russia? Is it the rhetoric of a former spy chief, who can't see how

:29:50.:29:55.

his country is changing? One of Russia's best-selling

:29:55.:29:59.

novelists says social change will eventually sweep Putin away.

:29:59.:30:04.

Middle-class is a new class in Russia, it has a lot of energy, it

:30:04.:30:14.

is very much different from middle- classes in the west. Because to sur

:30:14.:30:19.

vief in the 1990s in -- survive in the 1990s in Russia, to become a

:30:19.:30:23.

member of the middle-class, you had to be strong and you had to fight.

:30:23.:30:30.

With very harsh conditions of life, with corrupt police, to fight

:30:30.:30:34.

against authorities. This is a class of winners, and survivors.

:30:34.:30:44.

This is Putin's main problem, I think. Back in Gorky Park, the

:30:44.:30:48.

middle-class is testing its strength in a traditional carnival

:30:48.:30:53.

tug-of-war. It is not easy for them to get a grip on this wintry down,

:30:53.:30:58.

and for now, it is still the state that decides who gets the prizes.

:30:58.:31:02.

In a moment the review show, and Kirsty is here to tell us what is

:31:02.:31:04.

coming up. Tonight two different takes on

:31:04.:31:10.

British history, from the 1960s to today in White Heat, and the

:31:10.:31:15.

financial crisis of 2008 in John Lanchester's new novel, Capital. We

:31:15.:31:23.

also journey to Mars in Disney's 3.D epic, John Carter, and mark the

:31:23.:31:26.

icon Lou Reed. That's all from Newsnight tonight,

:31:26.:31:30.

Jeremy is back on Monday. The singer, Morrisey, has ensured

:31:30.:31:34.

himself of another year without a Knighthood, after declaring the

:31:34.:31:39.

British people know the Falkland islands belong to Argentina, we

:31:39.:31:44.

don't have any footage of the concert in Argentina where he made

:31:44.:31:49.

the pronouncement, we will settle for this.

:31:49.:31:53.

# Sweetness, I was only joking # When I said by right

:31:53.:31:58.

# You should be bludgeoned # In your bed

:31:58.:32:02.

# And now I know how Joan of Arc felt

:32:02.:32:11.

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