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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs