Bah Humbug! Russian Santa Faces Fine For Protesting Ban On Holiday Celebrations
(Article text ©2020 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Nov. 19, 2020 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/russian-santa-faces-fine-for-protesting-ban-on-holiday-celebrations/30958350.html)
Even Santa Claus and his elves can’t escape Russia’s coronavirus measures, or its strict laws on protests.
Moscow police detained a man dressed as Grandfather Frost, Russia’s version of the jolly Christmas gift giver from the North Pole, on Red Square near the Kremlin late on November 18, where he was protesting a city ban on holiday celebrations imposed due to the pandemic.
The Apology of Protest group that provides individuals facing prosecution for unsanctioned protests with legal defense said the man was detained after appearing on the square with a large poster, saying: “I am/We are the New Year. Grandfather Frost is against a ban on New Year’s parties.”
Lawyer Aleksandr Aldayev from Apology of Protest added that two other young men who accompanied Grandfather Frost in elf costumes were also detained.
The three men were later released, but the man in the Grandfather Frost costume was charged with violating the law on public gatherings and could face a fine of up to 20,000 rubles ($265) or up to 40 hours of community work.
Moscow authorities said on November 11 that traditional holiday celebrations in the Russian capital’s schools and other organizations and companies were banned this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although single-person protests do not require preliminary permission from the authorities in Russia, such protests on Red Square, which is in close proximity to the Kremlin and the presidential residence, are not allowed.
According to the latest data, there were 526,630 registered cases of coronavirus in Moscow, of which more than 8,000 were lethal.
As of November 19, the total number of registered coronavirus patients in Russia was 2,015,608, of whom 34,850 have died and 1,526,656 recovered.