Staunton, January 27 – Russian officials and Russian opposition groups have well-established systems for reporting on protests and the arrests in them when these actions take place in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the case of the former, the interior ministry issues reports; and in the latter, the Bely Schetnik group does the same.
But when protests occur outside of the capitals and especially in smaller cities far from the center, neither of these systems works very well. Regional interior ministries have little experience with issuing reports on their own, and opposition groups are reluctant because they seldom have more than one source on these meetings and thus don’t have confirmation.
In response to the Navalny protests on January 23, two groups have rushed into the breach to provide the most comprehensive information so far available about the protests and the number of arrests and detentions the authorities made in order to try to dissuade Russian citizens from taking part.
The Guild of Inter-Ethnic Journalism which focuses on perhaps the most underreported areas, the non-Russian republics, has used its network to report on the level of protests across the Russian Federation and especially in non-Russian areas (nazaccent.ru/content/34985-protest-bolshih-gorodov.html and nazaccent.ru/content/35000-protest-bolshih-gorodov-2.html).
And a team of Zona Media have sought to document the number of detentions and arrests in various parts of Russia as well zona.media/article/2021/01/28/operaciya_rossia). The specific details are seldom to be found elsewhere, but the overarching conclusions of these two pieces of investigative journalism are notewothy.
On the one hand, the Guild stressed that the protests were largely an ethnic Russian and urban phenomenon and said that “the ethnic card” had not been played, although it called attention to some exceptions. And on the other, the Zona Media group stressed how varied the official response was, with some officials cracking down hard and others not.
If the protest wave continues as many expect, these two outlets are likely to prove increasingly important if anyone wants to have an accurate picture of what is going on outside the capitals.
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