A Russian high school student who became the face of defiance amid anti-Kremlin protests on Sunday is the son of an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Roman Shingarkin’s father, Maxim Shingarkin, is a former member of parliament and was a member of the LDPR party, a nationalist party that supports Putin on almost all major issues.
During Sunday’s protest in Moscow against what organizers claim was official corruption, 17-year-old Shingarkin and another teen climbed to the top of a lamp post in Pushkin Square.
A police officer dressed in riot gear scaled the lamp post and attempted to get the teens to come down as the crowd of protesters cheered and whistled. They young men refused, and the police officer retreated, further exciting demonstrators at the biggest protest in Russian in several years.
Through images posted on social media, Shingarkin’s sit-in on top of the lamp post was embraced by Kremlin opponents as a David-and-Goliath act of defiance.
After the demonstrators had dispersed, police persuaded Shingarkin to come down, and he was detained. Police took him to a police station where he could not be charged because of his status as a minor. He was taken to a police station but, as a minor, he could not be charged. The teen had to call his father to pick him up.
Shingarkin’s father was unaware that his son had been participating in the protest.
“When I rang my dad from the police station, he immediately understood why I was there,” Shingarkin said in an interview with Reuters TV.
“I went there (to the rally) out of interest to see how strong the opposition is, how many people would take to the streets, and at the same time to get a response from authorities to a clear fact of corruption.”
He claimed that he climbed the lamp post because he “could see nothing from the ground”.
When reached by telephone on Wednesday, the elder Shingarkin said he was sympathetic with his son’s motives for attending the demonstration.
“He has a social position, against corruption, I support it completely,” Maxim Shingarkin said. He also emphasized that his son’s actions were no indication that he or the family opposed Putin.
Maxim Shingarkin contended that Putin is popular among voters and there is no one to replace him, but the officials around him let him down.
Roman Shingarkin noted that he would not participate in future protests unless they were sanctioned by the government. He said that he might attend a non-approved demonstration once he turns 18, claiming that if he gets arrested then, the police will charge him and not involve his parents.
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