REPORTING FROM MOSCOW -- A woman set herself on fire Sunday in front of the Moscow White House, the formal seat of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.
The woman, identified as Vera Smolina, a 56-year-old Nizhny Tagil resident, doused herself in gasoline and lit a match in front of one of the entrances to the building. Security guards quickly put out the fire and she was hospitalized with serious burns, Russian media reports said.
“She made no demands before attempting self-immolation,” a security source told the Interfax news agency. “She was not carrying any posters, so we do not know why she did this.”
The woman had apparently attempted suicide in the past, Interfax cited her sister as saying. But online commenters blame the government.
“Look at what the thieves have done to the people,” one commenter named belybor wrote in Gazeta.ru, an online newspaper.
“I think Vera Smolina did a heroic deed. ... It’s time to refuse slavery,” a blogger wrote in Livejournal, a popular blogging forum in Russia.
Another Livejournal entry titled “Vera Smolina and the Arab Spring” mentions that the Arab Spring started after Mohammad Buazizi self-immolated in Tunisia.
A wave of anti-government protests has swept Russia in recent months, triggered by election fraud allegations in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections. Putin is expected to return to the presidency after a March 4 election.
Nizhny Tagil, a poor industrial city in the Ural Mountains, is a center of support for Putin. A Nizhny Tagil resident offered to come to Moscow to help police disperse anti-government demonstrations during Putin’s live call-in show in December.
-- Khristina Narizhnaya