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The post-Plebiscite period outlines a new balance of power in Russia, in which society openly and categorically claims its rights. The people’s intransigent position on the lawlessness of the authorities and ignoring their demands is already changing the political landscape of the country, destabilizing the balance of forces, and the unabated protests with the prospect of growth are actualizing the demands of society, forcing the central government to think about postponing the municipal electoral cycle to the next year.
The protest was a kind of exception to the rather long chain of popular demarches (Moscow, Peter, village of Shies, Vladikavkaz, and Norilsk), highlighting the determination of ordinary Russians to resist the federal center and exposing the Kremlin’s unpreparedness for any dialogue with the periphery. Because of this, the resistance has its own peculiarities, and some trends have begun to influence the national processes.
Protests in Khabarovsk are characterized by continuity, mass and rapid politicization. Judging by the mood, they will not stop. Two weeks of daily meetings with a record output on Saturdays to “feed the pigeons” have become a powerful alarm clock for other regions. In other words, on July 11, the Russian people appeared in the political arena of the Russian Federation. After 27 years of anabiosis, they remembered that according to Article 3 of the Constitution they are the bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power.
The center and the province have clearly learned how to fight against usurpation of power, perversion of the Basic Law of the country, zeroing of Putin’s terms, corruption, growing extortions, poverty pensions and unemployment.
Khabarovsk has declared to all Russia that it is ready and can become one more point of assembly of protest movement of the country. Despite the warning not to humiliate the Kremlin and the president personally with slogans, the protesters chanted openly anti-Moscow and anti-Putin mottos. This is not only fraught with catching them in other regions, but also with transforming the protest into separatism, since along with the slogans “We are the authorities here,” Khabarovsk residents have unfurled the city flag.
The sociological group of Belanowski found out that the arrest of the van was perceived by residents of the region as an insult related to disrespect for their democratic choice. The answer was mass self-organization of the population and protests, the scale of which exceeded the worst fears of the federal authorities.
Dissatisfaction with the permissiveness of the federal center and its appointees in the field updated similar processes in other regions. Khabarovsk “Putin the Thief”, “Putin the Retired” in addition to Moscow and Peter have already sounded in Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, Vladivostok, Okhotsk, Novosibirsk, Perm, Voronezh and Birobidzhan. Experts do not rule out that Yakutia and Transbaikalia may be next in the anti-Kremlin regional relay race, where dissatisfaction with the Moscow elite is even stronger.
The expectation that the LDPR and CPRF would be compromised in order to raise United Russia’s electoral rating did not justify itself. This led to the opposite effect – the loss of legitimacy of the entire Russian party system and an increase in dissatisfaction with the central government.
As the past two weeks have shown, the protest itself did not burn out as expected in the AP. The tendentious and mass nature of the rallies became a systemic challenge for the federal center, and the periphery began to overshadow Moscow in its internal political and social agenda. And the sharp politicization of society exposed the crisis of the vertical power structure, discrediting and undermining its foundations.
Moscow understands very well that the Far Eastern incident must be bought as soon as possible, otherwise it will go through the country. At the same time, any rash decision on the problem of Khabarovsk will only help to export the conflict outside the region. As a personal preventive measure, Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov were led by Putin’s warning to refrain from making any statements or appeals in support of the rallies.
Some facts of the criminal past of the van that were thrown into the media did not convince people of its guilt. In response to this, posters “We Don’t Believe Moscow”, “Fair Court”, “Jury trial in Khabarovsk” appeared.
Other measures also showed the Kremlin’s limited choice of means. The statement of the mayor’s office in Khabarovsk about complaints of inhabitants on noisy meetings has caused only laughter. Reminders of the risks of coronavirus infection, as well as the statement of the FSB on the prevention of the terrorist attack in Khabarovsk led to the same. But the statement of the mayor Sergey Kravchuk about “inadequate and paid”, and also Solovyov’s “drunken shit” will not be forgotten.
The Kremlin’s political technologists have also tried to put their mite in extinguishing the fire. The conflict in the Far East, they tried to imagine the competition of bewitching groups for a new configuration of power, that society is not ready for real protests, that they are caused by the post-quarantine activity of the masses, and that their mobilization force has reached its peak, that the Furgala team brought the protests to Moscow to increase pressure on the center. Obviously, these masses were prepared for the first person, as it is known that Putin does not use the Internet and only wants to hear good news.
To further intimidate the protesters, the State Duma has introduced a number of bills – on fines of up to 100 thousand rubles for calls for the alienation of Russian territories and up to 15 million rubles for refusing to remove information from the site.
Fire prevention methods
The visit of Ambassador Yuri Trutnev to Khabarovsk and the appointment of Governor Mikhail Degtyarev to Khabarovsk also failed due to lack of communication with the protesters and lack of understanding with local elites. Obviously, this was the Kremlin’s attitude – not a hint of compromise. Degtyarev’s lack of management experience, his “bathing portfolio” with Zhirinovsky, his internal party split (deputies Yemelyanov and Kayan announced their withdrawal from the party in protest) and his interview with Vladimir Solovyov exclude the possibility of the Kremlin ruling the region, not only from the political conflict resolution. This means that the protests will not subsidize, and the region’s work will become more out of sync.
The only method that the Kremlin has adopted is to “pluck” activists, detain and arrest them. This is already happening not only in Khabarovsk and Moscow, but also in Krasnodar Krai and Sakhalin Oblast. There is also an artificial escalation of protests to create the prerequisites for the violent dispersal of demonstrators – more and more titans began to appear in the ranks of the protesters. Thus, given the quite expected “negotiation” failures of Trutnev and Degtyarev, Moscow has no other option but to use force. Yevgeny Stupin, a Moscow City Duma deputy, described this process well: “The most important issues that have arisen after the aging dictator has been zeroed out are political repressions! The authorities are afraid of those who put forward an alternative agenda and say sensible things”.
Realizing that the personal rating of the president and the ruling United Russia is completely ruined, CEC head Ella Pamfilova has already spoken out about the possible postponement of a single voting day until April, or maybe even October 2021. As a substantiation – the second wave of a pandemic with the beginning of school year. In fact, it is guaranteed that Putin’s proteges will not pass in at least four regions – Khabarovsk Krai, Komi, and Arkhangelsk and Irkutsk Oblast.
Further parasitism of the Kremlin on old ideologemes is no longer possible, only the AP will not recognize it. The ruling elite will continue to regard the population and regional elites as building materials for legitimizing and sustaining themselves. The usurpation of political will, contempt for the people as a “state-forming” subject, and repressive violence against them will continue. This will lead to an even greater and more extensive polarization of relations between regions and the center. The confrontation will spur and exacerbate the most severe economic crisis, antisocial decisions of the authorities and mass corruption on the rest of the Russian budget.
Tensions will increase in pro-government groups, which will be observed even among Putin’s loyalists. This will be due not only to the crisis in the vertical power structure, but also to Putin’s leveled (zeroed) personal rating. This will lead to even greater confrontation between the “towers”, as well as to an increase in the hostility of the “siloviki” towards the non-systemic opposition.
The regional offices of the Duma parties, especially the LDPR and the CPRF, will distance themselves from their leaders and try to pursue their own policies, given the situation on the ground. This will strengthen the role of municipalities as a base of self-government, as well as the influence of regional elites on the political and economic agenda of the country.
Thus, the Kremlin’s relations with society have reached a critical mass – an unacceptable and criminal state, when the center is only controlled and commanded, while everyone else is subordinate and executed.
The Khabarovsk protest expresses its disagreement with the basic principles of building relations between society and the state, which, after the “zeroing” of the Constitution, lost the last signs of democracy, law, and self-government.
Without responding to the demands of the people, démarches can reach more regions and turn into a pre-revolutionary state. And the most severe crisis of political governance may end in the Kremlin’s self-destruction of federal power.