Europe

Navalny is a force to be reckoned with 6-17-17

Source: "Demonstration of intent"  

Navalny organized a nationwide protest on June 12, 2017 in Russia. The protests were held in some 170 cities across Russia, gathering a total of about 150,000 people, according to organisers. (An earlier round of protests on March 26th drew perhaps 100,000 people in about 90 cities.) About half of the protesters are aged between 18 and 29. “These have been the biggest protests since 1991,” says Leonid Volkov, Mr Navalny’s chief of staff. One reason for the unrest is economic. Russian real incomes have fallen by 13% over the past two and a half years, reaching the level of 2009. Retail consumption has shrunk by 15%. Investment has been falling for three years, reaching a cumulative decline of 12%. Natalia Zubarevich, an expert on Russia’s regions, says economic factors are amplified by frustration with the lack of political freedom and official hypocrisy.

Vladimir Putin’s backwards-looking regime, which legitimises itself by restoring the symbols of Russia’s imperial past, is being challenged by a new generation of Russians who feel that their future has been hijacked by the corruption, hypocrisy and lies of the ruling elite, whom Mr Navalny calls “thieves and scoundrels”. The symbol of the protests was a rubber duck, a reference to a documentary video Mr Navalny released in March that accuses Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, of corruption. (The video depicts Mr Medvedev’s immense estate, allegedly donated to him by an oligarch, which includes a house for a pet duck.)

Last year Putin created a National Guard, a force of some 400,000 troops headed by his former bodyguard and reporting directly to the president. Most of the troops on June 12th were about the same age as the protesters. In the words of Kirill Rogov, a Russian political analyst, the spectacle on June 12th looked like a rehearsal for a “civil war”.