Staunton, January 25 – Many observers are comparing the Navalny protests of last weekend with the actions in 2011-2012 against the falsification of elections and suggesting that the latest events are less significant than the earlier one, Leonid Volkov, chief of Navalny’s regional staff network.
But that is “incorrect,” he argues. On the one hand, the earlier protests were largely confined to Moscow and other large cities while the new ones took place in 150 places across the country and involved 300,000 people (znak.com/2021-01-25/leonid_volkov_o_novyh_mitingah_strategii_oppozicii_i_otvete_vlastyam_na_ugolovnye_dela).
And on the other, the 2011-2012 actions took place generally with permission of the authorities rather than against them and participants faced far fewer and less draconian punishments – the worst then was a 500 ruble (seven US dollar) fine -- even when they were detained than have the protesters this time around, the aide says.
Now, Volkov says, the powers that be are arresting people and bringing real criminal charges – “more than 30 coordinators of the Navalny staffs have been arrested, that is practically all of them” – in a transparent effort to end the protest wave by spreading fear among the population.
In this situation, he says, “the supporters of Aleksey Navalny can answer in only one way: they are not afraid.” They plan to hold protests again this weekend and on February 2 when Navalny is scheduled to appear in court. How large these meetings will be is uncertain, but most of those who back him and oppose Putin remain unintimidated, the aide continues.
The powers that be having failed to frighten people with what the Kremlin has ordered so far will undoubtedly step up their pressure on Russian society. They may frighten some, but the latest round of protests shows that Russians are ever less afraid of them. Volkov says he can’t be certain that the demonstrations will change things. “I can’t see the future,” he points out.
But at the same time, the Navalny aide insists that he is certain “that if we do nothing, there won’t be any result at all.”