News

    Police Crack Down on Opposition in Post-election Russia

    Riot police detain a protester during a rally near the state-controlled TV channel NTV tower in Moscow, March 18, 2012.
    Riot police detain a protester during a rally near the state-controlled TV channel NTV tower in Moscow, March 18, 2012.
    James Brooke

    In the two weeks that have passed since Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won a six-year term as president, analysts say the Kremlin is moving to weaken the opposition movement that flourished in Russia last winter.

    In the last week, police detained hundreds of people at protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Three members of a protest punk band were imprisoned for two months on charges of hooliganism. Two environmentalists were arrested for photographing a governor’s mansion being built in a national park. And a Moscow judge sentenced to five years in jail the man who organized Internet fundraising campaigns that paid for loudspeakers and stages for last winter’s outdoor protests.

    Natalia Pelevine, coordinator of the Committee for Democratic Russia, spoke to VOA just after the Moscow mayor’s office rejected her request Monday for a protest in the case of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer who died in a Moscow prison three years ago.

    "Their desire is to get us off the streets completely, potentially get rid of us one way or another, whether to make us flee the country, or maybe they even have in mind locking some of us up," said Pelevine.

    Hammering dissension

    The opposition was hit by two blows in quick succession.

    On Thursday night, a Moscow judge handed down the five-year sentence against Alexei Kozlov, the man who organized an Internet payment system for the winter rallies. This system raised money through small donations on the Russian Internet, freeing the opposition of charges that rallies were financed by Russian oligarchs or by Western powers.

    Last September, Russia’s Supreme Court overturned a guilty verdict against Kozlov on unrelated financial charges. But when he became a key figure in the opposition, he was quickly retried, sentenced and sent to prison.

    Further fueling opposition anger, state-controlled TV channel NTV aired a special program on Friday charging that many protesters against Putin were migrant workers paid with "money or cookies."

    Voicing criticism

    As many as 1,000 demonstrators massed Sunday outside Moscow’s TV tower. They laid cookies and fake dollar bills at the station’s front door. The protest was unauthorized, and police detained more than 100 people.

    Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, said the Kremlin’s goal is to suppress public protest before warm weather arrives in Moscow.

    "The idea is to avoid these large-scale demonstrations here in Moscow. The problem is that the political crisis is still in place, and it is not fixed. And even if the demonstrators will disappear from the streets, it will not mean that the Kremlin can celebrate this as their victory," said Petrov.

    Looking ahead to May, president-elect Putin announced that a five-day "gardening holiday" would surround his inauguration on Monday, May 7. He hopes that instead of protesting, Muscovites will be at their dachas when he starts his new, six-year term.

    In another strategy, the government wants to redirect protests from the streets to new political parties. In coming days, Russia’s Duma is expected to approve a law that will radically reduce requirements for forming new parties. By the summer months, Russia’s opposition could be fragmented into dozens of small parties.

    Changing Kremlin strategy amid economic challenges

    Petrov said more stability would be provided by the creation of a large opposition party.

    “They are making a mistake, not coming forward with the political reform because in my view, political reform is needed for them much more than for anybody else,” said Petrov.

    Petrov and other analysts see the Kremlin facing big post-election economic headaches.

    For starters, price freezes will be lifted on gasoline and electricity bills, leading to highly unpopular price hikes. Second, a growing pension gap caused by Russia’s aging population may force the Kremlin to raise retirement ages, currently 55 for women and 60 for men.

    Finally, Putin’s election campaign promises to add up to $160 billion in new spending during his term. These promises include more weapons for the military and big salary hikes for doctors and teachers. Economists say this can only be financed if world oil prices keep rising - from their already high levels.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Pyotr
    March 20, 2012 8:03 PM
    It seems Russia is doomed to be a scarecrow of the World forever. People of the world, see and learn what a government which is interested in saving its people and territory should never do! It else seems to me Russians can only be free outside and apart from Russia.

    by: NVO
    March 20, 2012 8:20 AM
    The Gog of Magog and the NEW WORLD ORDER, are steadily trying to control the people. First by force, then by the implanting of a microchip in their forehead or right hand=Revelation 13:16. The World Bank is looking for their new "leader", and this will be the antiChrist and the False Prophet working together to control the people. Watch and see.

    by: Gennady
    March 20, 2012 7:17 AM
    To Sam & Vova:

    You have got guilty conscience for serving Satan as it’s crystal clear that you are on the pay list of the FSB to prolong for life suffering of dying-out Russian people.

    by: Sam
    March 20, 2012 2:15 AM
    How many western countries place two webcams at polling stations to curb irregularities at polling stations? Russia did this and yet the opposition are still crying foul. They are bad losers who will never be satisfied, keep them in jail, that's where they belong

    by: Vova
    March 20, 2012 1:53 AM
    The election is over and the result is clear and transparent. Those who do not accept the will of the whole nation and are trying to weaken Russia for the bennefits of the outsiders should be put on trial for commiting high treason.

    by: david lulasa
    March 20, 2012 1:38 AM
    russia should give chance to its people who just want to showcase their understanding of russians problems and with no violence in their minds..there is nothing for putin to fear ,doing good and right inparticular..i pity these old men.

    obama barack

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora