Staunton, March 9 – The Kremlin dismissed the Navalny protests in January and February as the work of marginal figures. But in fact, the Russian leadership knew that far more people had protested than it was admitting in public, Liliya Yapparova says. Moreover, the Putin regime was worried enough that it ordered up for the first time a detailed study of these actions.
The FSB’s Department of Military Counterintelligence conducted the study, the Meduza journalist says; and its data and conclusions are strikingly at odds with the public posture of the Putin regime (meduza.io/feature/2021/03/09/kak-vyyasnila-meduza-po-vnutrennim-podschetam-fsb-na-yanvarskie-mitingi-vyshli-90-tysyach-chelovek).
An officer of that department provided Yapparova with a copy of the report and agreed to answer questions. He stressed that this was the first time the Kremlin had asked for such a report on opposition protests, an indication in and of itself of just how seriously it is taking the Navalny operation. A second FSB officer confirmed the report was genuine.
The study focused on the events of January 23 and 31 and noted “dryly,” Yapparova says, that “in 143 cities of the Russian Federation took place protest actions under the slogan ‘Freedom for Navalny’ took place despite not having received permission from local organs of executive power.” In them, it said, participated “more than 90,000 people.”
The document was circulated throughout the FSB, the officer said, and featured data about the number of those detained – “about 12,000” – and the number among those who were under the age of 21 – 761. Those figures are both far higher than any the authorities have released up to now.
The difference between the FSB figures and the government’s public ones has infuriated the officer who shared the report and presumably others who believe that if one has accurate information one should share it lest not sharing it further undermine confidence in the Russian authorities.
An important part of the FSB report concerned the number of uniformed personnel from the defense ministry and Russian Guard who supported the protests. The report said that many did and that some of them even went to the demonstrations in their uniforms, Yapparova says. Some of these appear to have hoped this action would lead to their dismissal from their units.
But the FSB found Navalny sympathizers in the Russian Guard, an organization that is supposedly more selective as far as support for the regime is concerned. It appears, however, that the numbers of such sympathizers were relatively small, however. At the same time, that there were any must be a worry to the Kremlin.