Russia: The Brave Protests Show Strength

Coverage of the street protests by the crowds on Saturday against Naval’ny’s incarceration has suddenly taken an interesting twist. The huge turn-out of Naval’ny supporters – now called “Naval’nysty” – on this occasion found the authorities oddly unprepared – indeed, seemingly at sixes and sevens – for an event they had been expecting to take place for a number of days. Even though they behaved with a brutality that one has come to expect from them.

This much is apparent from an article on the demonstrations and the reactions of the police given in the Sunday edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta. Not only is the tone curiously neutral – following the fascinating display of respect for Naval’ny (alluded to in a previous blog) we now have his designation by the paper as the “guru” of the opposition – but so is the estimate that nearly one hundred thousand people turned up.

Some of the excesses have been put down to the fact that in certain cities in European Russia the police were taken by surprise at the large turn-out. At times it seemed the police were awaiting orders to break everything up, but orders failed to arrive on time. Moreover, the numbers across the country showed that Naval’ny’s regional network can still operate; and that his people will take to the streets even in the face of a beating from the authorities, which were very visible from posts on the web as were references to the courage of the protestors retaliating in kind.

Furthermore, from what one could see on screen the protestors were invariably young – which is a bad sign for a president who is not getting any younger and who has unwisely just extended the appointment of Patrushev, heading the security council, past the age of seventy.

It indicates a deep trench between the oldest and the youngest adult generations within Russia. This begins to look like the sixties in the West. Nature alone will eventually determine the final outcome of that competition. But in the mean time the régime had promised to initiate draconian laws in the New Year, and the Naval’nysty, undeterred from the beatings they have received so far, have promised to come out again in a week’s time. The attempted assassination has infused fresh blood into a movement that had lost some of its momentum across the regions. The régime is sorely in need of sensible advice.

Wihout that, it is beginning to look like a bloody reckoning lies ahead somewhere in the grim and distant future unless real opposition is legitimised: as with Mexico City in October 1968, or Tienanmin in June 1989. Let us sincerely hope not.

23.01.2021 23:31:00

Сторонники Навального обещают вернуться на улицу через неделю

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В результате протестной акции 23 января обе стороны получили неплохие козыри

 Иван Родин
Заведующий отделом политики “Независимой газеты”