Staunton, January 25 – In yet another indication of the decay of the Putin power vertical and its ability to monitor and then control things, Moscow’s representatives in the federal subjects generally were caught unawares by the spread and size of protests there last weekend, “the largest in recent decades,” URA commentator Sergey Leonov says.
One highly placed source in the law enforcement organs of Chelyabinsk, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Leonov that no one expected 2500 people to demonstrate when the thermometer stood at minus 26 degrees Celsius. “This was the most massive action of the last ten years,” he added (ura.news/articles/1036281831).
The official said that only about 20 percent of those taking part were young people. The majority were over 30 and included “many respectable people.” That is a matter of concern because such people haven’t gone to protests before, he suggested, although some of his colleagues think people are more angry at local officials than at Putin.
“A deputy governor of one of the Urals regions confirmed on condition of anonymity that he was not ready for such a mass meeting,” Leonov reports. In places where protests had occurred earlier, officials were; but his oblast wasn’t among their number. And to the surprise of everyone, “a record number of participants” took part.
According to experts Leonov surveyed, “one of the main causes of the protest is that people now clearly see that there is Moscow the metropolis and regions which are its colonies, where there is no development and people cannot achieve their goals.” According to Russian economist Vyacheslav Inozemtsev, this sense has been on the rise for some time.
Kirill Tremasov, who works at the Russian Central Bank, says that the pandemic has exacerbated that feeling, given that people can see with their own eyes that the Kremlin is taking care of Moscow but has left them, as a result of Putin’s healthcare “optimization” program without the hospitals and doctors they need.
Dmitry Zhuravlyev, a Russian political scientist, says that this was a middle class protest, a cry of anger by a group of people whom Western analysts suggest is the basis for stability in a democratic country but one that has been ignored most of the time by the people in the Kremlin.
After the protests of 2011-2012, the Kremlin paid some attention to them briefly but then turned to its traditional supporters, government employees. As a result, the middle class is now angry; and these protests, which few in the regions thought would be so numerous and large, are the result.