This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Some of the Russians marking President Vladimir Putin’s birthday this past weekend were decidedly not wishing him well.
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 activists, in dark clothes and white headgear, drew attention to the banner by setting off flares with colored smoke.
Police detained 11 people, at least one of which government critics said was not involved in the protest stunt.
In Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region, police detained three teenagers when they tried to attach a banner reading “Happy birthday, liar and thief” to a bridge.
The activists called their action Bessrochka, which can be translated as limitless time in power — a reference to two decades of dominance by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999 and started a new six-year term in May.
The teens were charged with violating the law on public gatherings and released.
In the city of Ulyanovsk, several activists held anti-Putin protests and held banners commemorating investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in Moscow on Putin’s 54th birthday, in 2006.
The activists chanted that they “wish Putin many years of life far from Russia.”
In the Siberian city of Irkutsk, eight activists held single-person protests against Putin. Some of their posters targeted the pension-reform legislation he signed on October 3, which will raise the retirement age for Russians by five years, saying “Putin steals our pensions” and “Putin has money for wars, but not for pensions.”
The Russian military has been deeply involved in the war in Syria since September 2015, and Moscow has backs armed separatists whose war against Kyiv’s forces has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.