Staunton, June 24 – Many Russians are focusing on the Shiyes protests about Moscow’s plans to build a dump in that northern region, but they have not yet come to recognize that support for the Shiyes protesters is coming in from across the country or that people in other regions are protesting for the same reason.
Denis Luzin, a commentator for the Nakanune news agency, says that anger about the plans of Muscovites to dump their trash in the regions and the failure of regional officials to oppose these plans had made the trash protest a worthy successor of the demonstrations against raising the pension age of a year ago (nakanune.ru/articles/115257/).
The central media’s failure to cover all this is “senseless by definition,” he says, in the age of the internet, and the Russian government’s efforts to blame the US or anti-government NGOs for the trash protests are absurd and even counter-productive because they are so transparently ridiculous.
The real causes of this rise in protests over trash are two, Vladimir Burmatov, chairman of the Duma committee on the environment, says. On the one hand, regional leaders have failed to consult with their populations and take decisions on the basis of what they hear. Only one region in four has even scheduled pro forma hearings, let alone been responsive to the people.
And on the other, neither Moscow nor regional officials in the overwhelming majority of cases have concluded the inter-regional accords that Russian law requires for moving trash from one part of the country to another, a lack that is breeding anger against both the local officials and Moscow ones as well.
Burmatov says he plans to work to strengthen the legal framework for such agreements, something many in the regions will welcome as it would give them greater influence in such circumstances but a move the Kremlin almost certainly will oppose because it would restrict the center’s freedom of action.
Consequently, the trash issue isn’t going away but rather is increasingly going to be the subject of political discussions however “unpolitical” some label these protests. And there is a related issue, Luzin says, that ever more people are focusing on that will tend to make the disposal of trash a countrywide issue.
And it is this: when trash is moved from one region to another, even if the population agrees and even if the region and Moscow have an agreement, it must pass through other regions. Some of them are beginning to speak out against such transit, thus creating another basis for a broader and more powerful protest against Moscow’s trash pretensions.
Because the trash must pass through so many, that will mean that more Russians will be angry and more Duma deputies will have reason to support restrictions than would be the case if only Moscow businessmen and the regions where the dumps are to be opened were the only players.
Indeed, the way in which trash protests are developing in an unexpected way could prove a more powerful force than the pension protests and even become the trigger for a new drive to make Russia the federal system the 1993 Constitution says it is but that the Putin regime has done everything it can to subvert.