Sergei Udaltsov, Russian Dissident, Live Tweets His Detention


"Don't be silent. The most important thing is for you to not be silent!"

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Russian Interior Ministry officers detained opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov during a demonstration outside the State Duma headquarters in central Moscow on April 11, 2012. Udaltsov was trying to join some 30 anti-Putin demonstrators hours before an address from Russian president Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)

Sergei Udaltsov is no stranger to arrest. In December of 2011, the day of Russia's legislative elections, the dissident leader of the country's Left Front movement was detained in Moscow for organizing protests against Vladimir Putin -- or, more specifically, for "resisting officers' recommendations to cross the road in the correct place." Udaltsov was kept in custody for five days -- after which he was rearrested, this time for an earlier tussle with Putin-empowered authorities. (Back in October, while under arrest for a prior protest, Udaltsov "left a hospital without permission.") He was given, that time around, a 15-day sentence.

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Yesterday, Udaltsov had another tangle with the State Investigative Agency, Russia's version of the FBI. This time, though, he published a public account of his arrest -- through his Twitter feed. Wired reported the live-tweeting, which took place through a combination of tweets and retweets. First, Udaltsov announced that his apartment had been raided, with his computer -- as well as documents and cash -- being seized. (Police also raided, Wired reports, the homes of Udaltsov's assistant, Konstantin Lebedev, and Ilya Ponomaryov, an assistant to a lawmaker in the Just Russia opposition party. Lebedev was later charged with ) Udaltsov then kept his followers apprised of his "questioning," letting updating them on his legal status and informing them when he'd been released. The whole thing played out fairly quickly: from 11pm one day to 1pm the next.

Here are tweets Udaltsov -- and those working from his account, on his behalf -- posted during the time of the detention:

You can read the whole stream, in the original Russian, here.

Udaltsov was arrested, this time around, for an old accusation: "organizing mass disorder." Last week, Russia's state TV channel aired video allegedly showing Udaltsov in a meeting with Georgian politician Givi Targamadze to discuss a plot to provoke uprisings. The channel claimed, as well, that Udaltsov had been working with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili -- one of Putin's primary foes.

In live tweeting his most recent detention, though, the dissident was in good company. Back in May, the Guardian reporter Kevin O'Flynn live-tweeted his arrest at an anti-Putin protest. In September, the journalist Molly Crabapple tweeted her arrest at the Occupy anniversary protests. All you need is SMS to turn a dark practice inside-out. And if you're expecting to be arrested -- if you're a dissident like Udaltsov for whom detention is a regular occurrence -- you can do things like sharing your social media account information with trusted compatriots to ensure that others can speak on your behalf. You can use simple technologies to ensure that, even when you're arrested, you're not silenced.

Big thanks to National Journal's Olga Belogolova for her help with the trickier Russian translations.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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