Staunton, July 19 – Even if Moscow can manage to suppress the protests in Khabarovsk, Ivan Rodin, the political editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta says, the spread of anger beyond that kray to other parts of the Russian Far East has the potential to leave the Kremlin with a choice between “the bad” and “the very bad.”
If the protests spread further, he argues, “then the authorities will have to choose” between suppressing the protests, something that might have worked if Khabarovsk were alone and could be presented as a special case, and playing for time in the hopes that the Khabarovsk events won’t spread (ng.ru/week/2020-07-19/7_7914_week2.html).
But the Khabarovsk events have already had consequences far beyond the Russian Far East, Rodin argues. By suggesting that the Kremlin won’t change the party membership of the new kray head, the Kremlin has made the role of the systemic parties far greater than it was. Now, winning a regional election can become the basis for more than a on-off triumph.
Not only will that limit the Kremlin’s freedom of action in changing governors it doesn’t like, but it will mean that the systemic parties, including not only Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s LDPR but the KPRF, will have more reason to devote attention to the regions because doing so can be the foundation for building their power at the Kremlin’s expense.
This development, the Nezavisimaya gazeta commentator says, is leading to “the destruction of the vaunted ‘Crimean consensus’ of the parliamentary opposition and the powers,” an outcome the Kremlin cannot want at a time when popular anger against the regime is rising and elections are ahead but one of the most important consequences of the Khabarovsk events.
And so in feeling that it had no choice but to keep the Khabarovsk kray leadership in the same party hands, a bad choice, the Kremlin now faces a situation that it is likely to conclude will be very bad and perhaps fatal to more than the Crimean consensus it worked so hard to maintain.