Staunton, January 12 – Debtors who believe they have been deceived and otherwise mistreated by banks, many of whom have lost their homes as a result, staged the first of three planned protests in Moscow and in cities across the country yesterday, marching on the Duma in the capital and in regional legislative assemblies elsewhere.
No fewer than 80 debtors appeared at the Duma reception in Moscow in the morning, activists say; but in the regions, while there were actions, far more people participated by electronic means. A few were detained briefly but reportedly they were all released before the end of the day (mbk.media/suzhet/vserossijskaya-akciya-protesta-dolshhikov-den-pervyj/).
The debtors in Moscow were met by Duma members, including Nikolay Nikolayev, the head of the Duma Group for the Defense of Debtors’ Rights, as well as deputy construction minister Nikita Stasishin. They and others promised “to implement the proposals of the debtors” regarding regulation of the banks.
Organizers say they will organize a second protest on January 15 in front of the FSB in Moscow and of FSB in regional capitals and a third protest on January 18 at the main government building where they will present their demands.
The all-Russian actions reflect the coming together of various “deceived debtors” groups into a single movement over the last 12 months. In July, that movement attracted debtors from more than 30 cities to a demonstration in Moscow. In the coming months, the group plans to conduct pickets, marches and hunger strikes.
Their protests have received almost no attention in either the Moscow or foreign media, but they are important for two reasons. On the one hand, they are a response to a problem that is found in almost every corner of Russia and thus is something people in various places understand.
And on the other – and this is more important – they provide both an indication of what is possible if groups seek to represent the concerns of Russians across the country and a model for these groups as the election season heats up and perhaps especially after March 18 when others are now thinking there will be protests.