Staunton, April 27 – The Putin regime remains just as committed as ever to the use of repression against its opponents, Abbas Gallyamov says; but it has made a significant tactical change in recent days, ending the mass brutality it employed earlier and using targeted repression instead.
That change, the former Putin speechwriter argues, represents a step forward as far as the opposition is concerned because the Russian authorities are “very conservative” and don’t like to make any change. But recent events and the reaction of Russians to them have forced it to do so (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2828900-echo/).
Several years ago, at a time when Putin’s rating was high, most Russians viewed dissenters as beyond their understanding, Gallyamov continues. But now that has changed. Many in the population and even in the elites don’t like what they see even if many of them for a time remain loyal because they don’t see any alternative to Putin.
“But even these loyalists are showing ever more dissatisfaction with the current course,” he says. That is because they share many of the concerns that those who have taken to the streets are acting upon. And that means that the use of force against protesters “in this situation” ceases to please people. Instead, it angers them.” And that isn’t something the Putin regime wants.
According to Gallyamov, the Kremlin is quite capable of using poll results and it cannot have failed to notice this shift. “Therefore, it has been forced to change its approach. Targeted repressions are much better than the use of force in the streets in the sense that they are not as visible.”
Even if each case is reported on the Internet, this does not have the impact of a single image of mass use of force. And the Kremlin has to be concerned about not only the population given the upcoming Duma elections – ignoring them now would be political suicide -- but also the attitudes of the Russian Guard, many of whose members share the views of the protesters.
The situation of the Russian opposition today is anything but easy, Gallyamov concludes. “But in one thing it can be calm about. The fact that the powers have been forced to change tactics testified above all that in the struggle for public opinion, the opponents of the regime have achieved significant progress.”
So significant, that the powers have had to take note of it and change how they are behaving.