Staunton, September 24 – Faced with the threat of ever-growing demonstrations, the Kremlin has adopted a three-pronged strategy to limit their size and even to prompt people to consciously choose to engage in individual pickets rather than rake part in larger protest meetings, according to Marat Bashirov, who writes the Political Joystick Telegram channel.
He tells Igor Sergeyev of the URA news agency that the first part of this strategy consists of putting out the message that anyone who does engage in illegal protests will be dealt with harshly. Those who want to avoid heavy fines or even time in jail will thus be more inclined to avoid such protests (ura.news/articles/1036278898).
Second, the Kremlin both by the example of Vladimir Putin’s Open Line program and in directives to officials at all levels both in Moscow and beyond the ring road has made clear that officials need to interact more regularly with the population, talking to people who are upset about one thing or another before they can coalesce into a protest.
And third, Bashkirov says the Kremlin has decided to avoid any significant new policies in the coming months lest those become the occasion for protests. The powers that be have concluded that the opposition has no agenda of its own but instead comes together in reaction to official moves. If there are fewer of them, officials believe, there will be fewer protests.
How long this strategy will work is very much an open question, but Bashirov argues that it does represent a departure from how the Putin regime has interacted with the population in the past and may go a long way to keeping public protest at a more manageable level as the country heads into the next electoral cycles.