Staunton, August 4 – The Kremlin achieved some of its immediate goals by suppressing the Moscow protests yesterday. It has distracted attention from the Siberian fires it can’t put out and played to the anger many in the regions feel about the capital, Ivan Preobrazhensky says, but the powers that be have undercut their longer-term ones by further politicizing the demonstrators.
In a commentary for Deutsche Well, the Russian political scientist, argues that the Kremlin clearly has not taken into consideration the likelihood that what it has been doing in pursuit of its short-term goals will undermine any chance that it can avoid longer-term disasters (dw.com/ru/комментарий-протест-возвратился-в-москву/a-49884839).
The Russian authorities deployed more force and used it over a larger geographic space than in the past to limit the size of the protest. They “completely as it seemed to them decapitated the protest” by incarcerating the leaders. And they have launched legal proceedings against the more than 800 arrested that are intended to intimidate.
But in all three cases, the authorities’ actions are proving counter-productive if not this weekend then for the future. The way in which the Russian Guard and OMON acted throughout the city only underscored for many Russians the fundamentally thuggish and illegal nature of this police action.
The arrest of leaders may have reduced the size of the protest yesterday, but it was still large, a reflection of the fact that Muscovites and other Russians do not need leaders to tell them why they are angry about the regime and can use social media -- and even word of mouth if the powers that be shut down the Internet.
And the moves the authorities are taking against those detained not only are recalling the Bolotnoye case of 2011-2012 but also are giving the protesters a new basis for mobilization and further politicizing their protest, shifting it away from the limited issue of getting opposition candidates on the ballot to the more general questions of abusive police power.
Indeed, Preobrazhensky says, “as a result” of official actions, “the protests have a new focus: the elections to the Moscow city council have fallen into second place: in first is now the use of force by the police.” Because elections on September 8 would have ended the issue of registration as a mobilizing tool, the powers that be haven’t won much.
Instead, they have lost something more because “protests against force in Russia, where the powers that be are constantly applying it against their own citizens can assume a continuing character” that will last long after next month’s vote. And that shows something else: “Frightening people in 2019is much more difficult than it was in 2012.”