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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More