Staunton, July 18 – The Khabarovsk demonstrations are “more important” than the July 1 constitutional amendment vote because they have annulled the annulment and set Russia and its current ruler on a path much like that of Belarus and Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Kirill Shulika says.
That is because the protests in the Far Eastern city show that those Putin can no longer depend on those he thought would always be in his corner and that “if the voting annulled Putin’s terms, then the meetings at a minimum in Khabarovsky annulled the voting” on July 1 (newsru.com/blog/18jul2020/habarovsk.html).
But those two things are not the only lessons Khabarovsk has for Putin and his country. First, these protests show that in Russia today, “there is no difference between permitted and non-permitted meetings.” That too has been annulled, and the authorities may come down on either if they choose and feel able to.
Second, the Khabarovsk events strongly suggest that no gubernatorial elections will be cancelled in the near term. That “could become the beginning of the end” because it would spark demonstrations across the entire country. Indeed, Shulika says, he “doesn’t exclude the possibility” that Moscow may decided to release Sergey Furgal.
And third, because the protests can’t be blamed on foreign intelligence services or the “accursed” liberals in Moscow and because the Khabarovsk residents went into the streets despite efforts to frighten them into staying at home by invoking the coronavirus threat, the Khabarovsk events show that Russia is becoming more like Belarus.
This is because now in Russia as in Belarus, it is “the moderate politicians and not the radicals [who] are bringing together the protest activists and the deep people.” In Belarus, that is leading to the greatest threat to date to the political survival of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his regime.
In Russia, if the country and its leader continue in the same directions they are now, “’intelligent voting,’” not some Moscow leader like Aleksey Navalny, and produce “in each region its own Furgal or Babariko,” the Belarusian opposition leader. That will change Russia and make it far more difficult for Putin to run things as he has.
Shulika does not mention this, but one of the implications of his analysis is this: Putin may have particular difficulties in deciding what to do in Belarus because the evolution of the situation there not only appears nearly certain to block his geopolitical plans but also because it is a not-so-distant mirror of his own situation.