Staunton, January 23 – Today, supporters of Aleksey Navalny demonstrated in more than 100 cities of the Russian Federation. Many were detained, and criminal charges are now being filed against some of them. But perhaps the most important development was that in one city, commanders ordered the police to disperse the crowd; and part of the police present refused.
Approximately 300 demonstrators assembled in the 350,000-strong Transbaikal city of Chita, More than 20 were detained. But strikingly when officers ordered their subordinates to disperse the crowd, some of the latter refused (t.me/teamnavalny/6200 and
In many places, demonstrators called on the police to cross over and join them. That did not happen. But the fact that some police have refused to obey orders must be troubling to the powers that be because it is a signal that the reliability of the uniformed officers may not be as unshakeable as the Kremlin would like to believe.
Even if this happens only in some locations, it is terrifying to those in power because their greatest fear is that they may give an order to disperse protesters and the police will refuse to act. That actually happened in Ingushetia in March 2019 where an entire battalion of police refused to obey such orders (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/03/kremlins-biggest-nightmare-happens-in.html).
In response, Moscow and Magas disbanded the unit, insisted on the resignation of the republic interior ministry head, and brought charges of insubordination against those involved
(fortanga.org/2019/03/posle-mitinga-v-ingushetii-nachalis-goneniya-uvoleny-dva-desyatka-politsejskih/, fortanga.org/2019/03/glava-mvd-ingushetii-posle-mitinga-ushel-v-otpusk/, and meduza.io/news/2019/03/29/v-ingushetii-rasformirovali-batalon-politsii-otkazavshiysya-razgonyat-aktsiyu-protesta).
Whether Moscow and Chita will respond equally dramatically remains to be seen. In many ways, their decision will be a good measure of how fearful those in power may be that their control of the forces of coercion is slipping. If they feel confident, they are likely to crack down hard; if they feel less so, they may adopt more circuitous means.
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