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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs