Purely symbolic, perhaps, but resistance nonetheless, because of the risks these young men and women took to make their public statement.

Activists in several cities had critical messages for Putin, who turned 66 on October 7.

In his hometown, St. Petersburg, activists stretched a big banner across a central street with block letters wishing Putin “long years in prison,” a play on a traditional Russia birthday greeting.

The traditional birthday wish, translated literally, is “long years of life (to you).” The activists simply replaced “life” with “prison.” Quite civilized of them: seeking justice, not wishing for the adversary’s speedy expiry.

(Niceties such as “Please Just Die Already” would run afoul of Russia’s “anti-extremist” legislation. Also, personal animus sounds immature, and – above all – the young may not even have it. They don’t hate the man – they want to hold him to account.)

Obviously, the same act wouldn’t take much courage and so wouldn’t count for much in a reasonably free-speech country.

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