I just got this email from Austria. With my friend’s permission, I removed some personal details and share it with you now.
I just came home from witnessing president Putin putting down flowers in honor of the Russian soldiers liberating Austria from fascism at Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna. Now I arrived at Schwarzenbergplatz, the site of our monument in honor of the red army liberating Austria, approximately two and a half hours before Putin and his entourage arrived at the site. What I can tell you is the following.
Even before the Police built a perimeter around the square, a good 50-something demonstrators waving Russian flags and some waving Russian and Syrian flags were present at the square. Everybody was in a cheerful mood. Everybody was united in their support for Putin. Even the police was very friendly and and only about an hour and a half before the arrival of Putin did they ask us kindly to leave the square and get behind the perimeter. Now the perimeter was no more than 100 to 150 meters away from the monument. It surrounded the square in an oval shape. All along the perimeter, people started to gather in order to see Putin and cheer for him. All in all I would say between 1000 and 2000 people were standing around either to catch a glimpse of Putin or to chant in support of Putin. Many Russian and Syrian flags where around, as well as many st.George ribbons were visibly worn by attendants. The composition of the crowd was quite interesting. I would say about one third were native Austrians, one third were Russians or Belorussians residing in Austria with a good command of the German language, and about one third of the people in support of Putin were of mixed eastern European descent as well as Syrian. I spoke to people from Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Czech and Poland and Syria who were all in support of Putin. When the military chapel played their song when Putin put down the flowers, our chants of Rossija and of Slava Putina and sa putina were louder than the music. He turned to our side several times and waved towards us. At the very top of the square, 20 or so galician demonstrators were shouting their slogans an waving their flags. They were vastly outnumbered, and the atmosphere was nevertheless peaceful and rather relaxed. They called us Putincy or Putinzi I didn’t quite understand. Anyway, guess who got all the media mentions? Besides the Galicians, there was also a separate anti Putin protest by Hosi, the interest organization of the gay, lesbian and transgender people in Austria, but they had their separate thing, and were nowhere to be seen around Schwarzenbergplatz. Also at the top of the square, at the point where all the official cars entered and exited through were maybe 10 Georgians waving Georgian flags and also some Chechen who were anti Putin. The point is that they were vastly outnumbered by happy peaceful pro-Russia people, but they got all the attention. Also Greenpeace did a separate little protest against Putin, because he refurbishes some nuclear power plants in Hungary. Public opinion is violently opposed to nuclear power in Austria, and so am I, but Greenpeace of course was scoring cheap political points against Putin.
Anyway. There was a really refreshing mix of people at the square. Syrians, Russians, eastern Europeans, Austrians of right and left political persuasion. The most noteworthy occurrence was this American couple however. So a guy and a girl in their late twenties dressed like tourists walked up to all the different groups of the pro Russia people. The guy asked us for our names, and asked us why we were in favor of Putin. While he was asking us these questions, his girlfriend took pictures of us without asking. To us they said they were tourists on a trip through Europe, the next group they told they were journalists. The guy had a notebook in his hand and wrote down everybody’s name, and their views. When a group of Russians standing next to us involved them in a heated debate they stood there arguing in Russian, not English, and the girl also spoke very good German to me. Unusual language skills for Americans. Anyway when one of the Syrians came up and started asking them if they were tourists or journalists, and who they were writing for and if they could provide credentials they took off very abruptly.
What do I take home from this event? That Putin took note of this spontaneous outpouring of support of ordinary people. I think nobody supports him in everything he says or does, but honor where honor is due for standing up to empire and hypocrisy. We dig that, and we were able to show it to him.
Hope all is well with you, and I hope to get some more pictures of the many people with Russian and Syrian flags. There was also a German camerawoman among us filming stuff for ruptly.tv newsagency, so there is a chance that these pictures will eventually make it to rt.