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Protests against the “zeroing” of the country’s Constitution are scheduled for July 15 in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In St. Petersburg, the Libertarian Party, the Spring movement and Open Russia have applied for a rally. About a thousand participants are waiting for the rally. Given the high share of protest voting in the northern capital, many more people may come to the rally.
In Moscow, the organizers of the “No!” campaign have received a refusal from the mayor’s office to hold a rally “No to Eternal Putin”. Nevertheless, the announced 10 thousand may still come out, but already for an unauthorized action.
In the cities of developed countries streets become a work of art, a standard of culture, a visiting card for tourists, a place of rest.
In Russia, in the periods of calmness, streets are a source of good income for local elites in the form of permanent “improvement”, and in times of political upheaval – a place of frontal clash of people with the authorities. The former aretrying to defend their rights to the extent possible, while the latter are defending their rights with shields, batons and water cannons.
“The Levada Center speaks of an increasing number of citizens ready to participate in street protests against illegitimate amendments and the fall in living standards. In late May, 28% of respondents said so. It is not excluded that the CPRF representatives may join the actions, as this party initially took the position of an opponent of the amendments to the Constitution. The social tension caused by the economic crisis and the catastrophic drop in living standards is also high, which may seriously radicalize the demonstrations.
It is not excluded that the protest agenda may be supplemented by new trends of the recent days. For example, Ivan Safronov, a former Kommersant journalist and advisor to the head of Roskosmos, was arrested for “espionage”; Svetlana Prokopyeva, a journalist, was convicted of “justifying terrorism”; her office was searched by IBH Media and coordinators of Open Russia; and Sergei Furgal, governor of Khabarovsk region, was detained. The latter may be added to the ranks of protesters and LDPR representatives.
All this significantly expands the palette of protest ultimatums, thus creating the prerequisites for increasing the number of protesters and the formation of strict requirements for the center, especially in the case of participation of two parties that are members of the State Duma.
Aware of the expected mass of protests and the multitude of reasons for the people’s anger, the Kremlin is preparing to defend its dictatorship by any means possible. Although the choice of means is not great, it is repression and persecution. A dictatorship has a small choice of instruments. The lack of even the decorative legitimacy of the vote on the amendments leaves the Putin regime with only one way to go – to strictly “impose” them on society. The Kremlin’s perfect state revolution will be held back only by bayonets and terror.
The Kremlin has been preparing for this option for a long time.
Under the guise of an unceasing pandemic, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has forbidden even the initiators to apply for rallies. The regime of self-isolation is not cancelled, primarily because of the expected surge of protest manifestations. The dynamics of the epidemic is just a cover-up.
But the Kremlin admits that people can take to the streets without permission, regardless of “quarantine” bans. Intolerance for unauthorized actions and fear of their masses are pushing the Russian authorities to increase funding for punitive bodies and provide them with a variety of equipment and machinery.
Despite the fact that the government has never economized on this item, in early 2020 the financing of law enforcement agencies, primarily Rosgvardia, increased beyond the budget. And from October 1, a new increase is planned – salaries in the Interior Ministry, Rosgvardiya, FSIN and the army will increase by 3%.
The Russian government spends tens of billions of rubles to buy special machines, water cannons, gas atomizers, grenade launchers, shock shields, stun guns, handcuffs, and rubber truncheons.
Given the disproportionate spending on the repressive authorities compared to other spending items, the authorities want to classify the purchases of FSO, Rosgvardia and Roskosmos. At the moment the expenses for the Ministry of Defense, FSB and SVR have already been classified.
However, you cannot buy unconditional loyalty for money. The events in Vladikavkaz were the first alarm signal and showed the unreliability of Rosgvardia. On April 20th this year North Ossetian law enforcers refused to disperse a spontaneous rally against the regime of self-isolation. The authorities had to urgently relocate units from Rostov and Krasnodar to Vladikavkaz.
The results of the vote on the amendments among the military demonstrated an even more depressing picture – there is a protest electorate in the Russian army, border guards, navy and, logically, in the power structures of the Russian Federation. The majority of closed cities of the Russian Defense Ministry issued protest results. One of the leaders was the Department of Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia in St. Petersburg, where 2/3 of the personnel voted against.
Thus, unconditional obedience to the police and Rosgvardia in exchange for certain privileges may be disrupted. In this case, instead of harshly suppressing mass protests, law enforcement agencies may sabotage an order. “Respectful” reasons may be different – breakdowns of equipment, communication facilities, diseases of personnel.
In turn, the transfer of units from one region to another to “plug holes” may also fail. For Moscow “Levadovsky” 28% means about 4 million people in the streets. It is enough to recollect that for purchase of the largest political actions in capital in July and August 2019 law enforcement officers from all European part of Russia have been mobilized. But even so, their capabilities were on the verge. And if the protests broke out simultaneously in 5-7 cities – there will definitely not be enough reserves.
Realizing this, the Kremlin is trying to act proactively. That’s why, on July 9, under the cover of the hype surrounding the detention of Khabarovsk Governor Sergei Furgal, a high-profile accusation, mass searches were carried out in Moscow – the house of IBH Media editor-in-chief. Sergei Prostakov, in the office of the editorial board, at the coordinators of “Open Russia” and “Human Rights”, as well as at the Moscow municipal deputy and one of the organizers of the campaign “NO! Yulia Galamina.
Another distinguishing feature of the upcoming protests is the sharply increased readiness of Russian youth for political action. Whereas in the past about 20% of young Russians took part in rallies, today, according to the data of social polls, the level of anxiety in the age group under 24 has reached 81%. This could force the young generation to join the street, and with so many young people, any protest could easily go beyond the peaceful format.
Social pessimism and anxiety do not reset, they undermine the already fragile stability in the country, and in the case of high mass demonstrations and their rude dispersal the situation can develop into civil disobedience and riots of unprecedented strength.
Thus, the main agenda in Russia for the second half of the summer will be the “force” protection of the results of the “triumphant” vote on the amendments and repressive seizure of the mandate of people’s trust in the “cemented” power.