News / Europe

Russia's Protest Movement Faces Key Test Saturday

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny - released from jail December 21, 2011, after being detained at the first of several large opposition rallies, will be participating in the next mass protest planned for December 24 - speaks during an interview in
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny - released from jail December 21, 2011, after being detained at the first of several large opposition rallies, will be participating in the next mass protest planned for December 24 - speaks during an interview in
James Brooke

It is winter in Moscow. Snow fell heavily this week. And now opponents of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are preparing for what they hope will be a massive rally on Saturday.

Russia’s democracy movement faces a big test Saturday. It must draw a massive turnout before Russians unwind for two weeks of holidays that stretch through Orthodox Christmas on January 7, 2012.

Opponents of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have raised $100,000 for a high-powered sound system. Celebrity actors and singers have posted endorsements on the Internet. And, for timid, first-time protesters, organizers are promising tea, cookies and balloons.

Mild weather forecast

And this time, the harsh Russian winter, which defeated Hitler and Napoleon, is not on the Kremlin’s side.

Nikolay Petrov, a Carnegie Moscow analyst, forecasts a large turnout.

“The problem is that the weather is still mild, meaning that a big crowd can gather tomorrow. The Kremlin is waiting for a break,” said Petrov.

The protests started after fraud charges clouded the December 4 parliamentary elections. Normally, the Kremlin could afford to ignore the protests. But presidential elections are March 4, and Putin, the front-runner, is sinking in the polls.

Government uses carrot, stick

In response to the protests, the Kremlin first sent riot police to arrest the protesters. Then the prime minister insulted them, saying they were acting on the orders of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He joked on national TV that at first, he thought the protesters’ white ribbons were condoms.

On Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a package of democratic reforms. On Friday, some of this legislation was sent to parliament.

Many analysts say, though, that it's too little, too late.

Ilya Yashin, a protest organizer, said that after four years of empty promises, Medvedev has little credibility among democrats in Russia.

He said the Kremlin responds only to civic pressure - like Saturday’s rally. So far, more than 50,000 people have signed up on social network sites to attend the four-hour meeting.

Each side readies for polls

As the numbers climbed, Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s chief strategist, warned in a newspaper interview that some protesters want to create in Russia the kind of “color revolutions” that toppled authoritarian governments elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
Carnegie’s Petrov said of the Kremlin leadership that Medvedev is “politically dead,” and Putin is not going to change.

"After staying in power for 12 years and reaching 60 years, it is hard, pretty hard, for any person to change radically, and Putin is unwilling to do this - so there is huge inertia," said Petrov.

So far, protesters have been heavily middle-class professionals in their 20s and 30s. They are connected and informed through the Internet - a largely free space in Russia.

Putin’s base of support is largely the elderly.

At stake on March 4 is a vote that could give Putin another six years in power. To block this, his opponents are organizing a massive, nationwide poll-watching program to catch fraud. The first test of their organizing abilities will come Saturday at the rally, on Sakharov Avenue.

This wide boulevard is named after Andrei Sakharov, the 1980s dissident credited with bringing down the Soviet Union - an event that took place 20 years ago this weekend.


You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs