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Medvedev's Popularity Sinks Amid May Day Politics in Russia


Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits Alexandra Land in remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia, March 29, 2017.

The independent Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) reported Friday that the central executive committee of the country's ruling party, United Russia, had distributed to its regional branches a list of 36 slogans that party activists should use during party activities next week marking the annual May Day holiday.

While, according to Dozhd, the slogans include some praising the country's president ("Putin is for the People, He is Leading Russia to Success!") and others condemning corruption ("Praise Honesty, Jail Bribe-takers!"), none of them refers to the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who happens to be United Russia's formal head.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was arrested during March 26 anti-corruption rally, gestures during an appeal hearing at a court in Moscow on March 30, 2017.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was arrested during March 26 anti-corruption rally, gestures during an appeal hearing at a court in Moscow on March 30, 2017.

The likely reason for that omission is not hard to figure out: Medvedev has seen his popularity drop sharply since early March, when anti-corruption blogger and opposition leader Alexei Navalny published a video investigation into the prime minister's alleged wealth. It offered viewers shots of yachts, villas, and even a winery in a picturesque Italian village, all allegedly belonging to Medvedev.

A survey released Thursday by the Levada Center, Russia's only independent national polling agency, found that Medvedev's "trust" rating had fallen to a record low since Navalny's video was posted and viewed more than 20 million times.

Bloomberg News, citing two Medvedev "allies," reported this week that he "is more worried than ever about his political future."

The news agency quoted President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as brushing aside the drop in Medvedev's approval, saying "ratings go up and down, that's a normal process."

Still, Peskov declined to say whether the prime minister still "enjoys Putin's full trust," Bloomberg reported.

The prime minister has become a lightning rod for Russian anger over official malfeasance. On March 26, an estimated 60,000 people answered Navalny's call and took to the streets in more than 80 Russian cities to protest corruption. Many protesters mocked Medvedev's taste for expensive athletic shoes by hanging sneakers on street lamps.

Medvedev finally responded to Navalny's video in early April. He claimed, among other things, that the allegations of corruption cited in the video were based on "nonsense" about "acquaintances and people that I have never even heard of." He also obliquely referred to Navalny as "a political opportunist" who is trying to seize power.

Meanwhile, another Levada poll published this week found that 45 percent of respondents would like to see Medvedev dismissed as prime minister, up sharply from the 33 percent who felt that way last November.

Medvedev's press secretary, Natalya Timakova, a former Kremlin pool reporter, called the Levada poll a "political hit job."

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