Friday, April 17, 2020

Shiyes Protesters Deliver Ultimatum to Acting Governor; He Shows Sympathy but Likely Won’t Help after Vote, Observers Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 16 – Ten days ago, the Shiyes activists sent an open letter to Aleksandr Tsybulsky, who was recently installed as head of the Arkhangelsk Oblast, concerning the possibility that Moscow will go ahead with the construction of a dump there. It demanded he talk with the activists and threatened more protests if he didn’t accede to their demands to oppose it.

            Tsybulsky said he was personally against the project, something the activists are pleased by, but did not take a hard public line and has not shown himself any more willing to negotiate with the protesters than was his disgraced predecessor, an indication that  his position now is only intended to get him through the September vote (

            Once that vote has taken place and he has been installed, they suggest he will simply fall in line with Moscow and move ahead with plans to build a dump for trash from the Russian capital.  By being forthcoming now, he avoids protests in the immediate future; but by changing course after he wins the vote, he will likely face even more radical protests in the future.

            Protest attitudes in Arkhangelsk Oblast, which led to demands for the retirement of the top person in the region in part were generated by the absence of dialogue between the representatives of civil society and the regional powers. We express the hope for such direct dialogue between You and social organizations” about Shiyes, the letter declared.

            The not-so-implicit threat to Tsybulsky is that if he doesn’t go along, he will face the same fate as his predecessor, pulled out because he won’t be able to control the situation.  The acting governor clearly understood the threat, especially before the elections and said he was “personally against” the project.

            But that is hardly the end of the story, Denis Luzin of the Nakanune news agency says. Tsybulsky is truly “between a rock and a hard place,” between an electorate opposed to any such trash dump and a Moscow that very much wants it.  As a result, he is playing for time; but another expert Luzin spoke with suggests that is only until after the vote.

            Maksim Zharov, a prominent political commentator, says that there is a clear basis for that conclusion. In Moscow, he notes, everyone said that they were against paid parking; but when paid parking was nonetheless introduced after the elections, no one went into the streets to protest.

            Tsybulsky and the opposition group are behaving according to the same script. The latter says it will create problems if he doesn’t go along, and he appears to be inclined to do so. But when Moscow demands that he act in a certain way, Zharov says, the newly elected governor will remember who appointed him and give way to forces in the capital.

            The new governor presumably thinks he can string things along until next winter when protests will be more difficult, but it is entirely possible that the obvious duplicity of his actions will mobilize even more people in the region to the Stop Shiyes cause. Then he and Moscow will have to make a choice, and they will remain between a rock and a hard place.

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