Kremlin fears meddling as Russian youth say 'enough of Putin'

No comments
Watching gleefully as Washington gets bogged down in the "Russia thing", lawmakers in Moscow are looking at ways to prevent the West from interfering in Russia's presidential election.
If its aim was to muddy the waters and tie the Washington establishment up in knots, then Moscow must be delighted by the investigations now going on into alleged Russian meddling in the  2016 US presidential election. For Russian President Vladimir Putin's loyal constituency, anything that makes America look stupid is good for their man. 
Commenting in The Moscow Times, analyst Vladimir Frolov admitted the murky affair had limited US President Donald Trump's scope for easing sanctions and improving relations with Russia.
"But the disruption and distraction [the Russia investigation] is causing in Washington is a net gain for Russia geopolitically. Anti-Russia hysteria in the US media is good for Putin's re-election in 2018," he said. 
Not to be outdone as "victims of meddling", Russian deputies are now creating a parliamentary commission to stop the West from influencing the vote for a new Kremlin leader. The newspaper Kommersant said a group in the Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) would monitor foreign organisations and pass new laws to stop "external interference".
It quoted Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Federation Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs, as saying that the US and NATO had systematically attempted to influence Russian politics.
"There is no doubt that during the run-up to the presidential election in March next year, we're going to face some active and consistent attempts to influence the course of the vote," Kosachev said. 
But the real threat to Putin is homegrown and his name is Alexei Navalny. The anti-corruption crusader was given another short spell in jail this month, but the Kremlin has yet to work out how to fix the "Navalny problem" once and for all. 
For frustrated young citizens, coming out onto the streets in support of Navalny, these are just dry mind games that divert attention from their concerns about corruption, stagnation and limited opportunities under Putin's long presidency.
"I'm not afraid to go to jail for 15 days. More frightening is the prospect of living for another 20 years in this poverty," said a young woman in butterfly sunglasses, in a video shot by the newspaper Vedomosti at the latest pro-Navalny demonstration in Moscow on June 12.  
Tens of thousands of protesters came out in cities across Russia and around 1700 were arrested, including Navalny himself, who was picked up by police at his home before he could even reach the demonstration in the capital.
It was a national holiday, marking the day in 1990 when the late Boris Yeltsin declared Russian sovereignty. 
Navalny, denied a platform and sound equipment at the venue where he had been authorised to protest, upped the ante by moving his protest to an unapproved central location where official celebrations were being held. A court sentenced him to 30 days in jail. His supporters could face heavier sentences or expulsion from college - nasty little punishments that will go under-reported.
Russia brushed off criticism from White House press secretary Sean Spicer that the detention of peaceful protesters was "an affront to core democratic values". Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the authorities responded correctly to "those who engaged in provocative actions in violation of the law". 
Putin, 64, who has led Russia since 2000 – the entire life of the protesting millennials – has yet to declare his candidacy but it is widely assumed he will run for a fourth term that will run to 2024. The question is whether he will make a martyr of Navalny by putting him out of the way or allow him to register and run in the presidential race. Either approach is risky for the Kremlin.
Policies 
Since the murder of former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov and the exile of dissident oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Navalny stands alone in the field of opposition. He is tired of being asked how he is still alive.
"I am not afraid," he said in a recent interview with Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of the late liberal mayor of St Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. "I am not going to waste my time thinking 'why haven't they killed me yet?'. There is no point in that." 
Instead, the 41-year-old lawyer and blogger, who spent a year at Yale University in 2010, spelled out what his policies in government would be. His detailed answers gave the lie to criticism that he can only make sensational films about corruption while lacking a political program.
On the economy, hit by Ukraine-related sanctions and falling oil prices, he said he favoured doubling health and education spending to bring Russia up to the level of developed countries. He would achieve this by cutting military and police budgets, although not military and police salaries. 
The savings could be made by rooting out corruption, he said, adding that he would tax rich oil companies but support small businesses. And with a proper tax system, there would be no need to raise the pension age.
Avoiding Sobchak's attempts to pigeonhole him either as a leftist or a right-winger, Navalny said: "It's not about right or left but about a return to normalcy. I am against the state swallowing everything."
On the Ukraine crisis, which has soured Russia's relations with the West, Navalny advocated holding a "proper" rather than a Kremlin-orchestrated referendum to determine what the Crimean Peninsula's residents really wanted. As for the Donbass region, Russia should respect the Minsk Accords, withdraw its troops and return the border to Ukraine, he said.
It was Putin's greatest failure that he had "made an enemy out of Ukraine", Navalny said.
The would-be candidate, dismissed by Putin supporters as an American stooge but criticised by liberals for being too much of a Russian nationalist, said he thought of himself as a "Russian" rather than as a citizen of the multi-ethnic Russian Federation. He saw no harm in calling for a visa system for immigrants from former Soviet republics in Central Asia or a fairer share of state spending across Russia instead of a concentration of funds to keep Chechnya quiet.
On gay marriage, he thought regions should vote separately, as a European city like St Petersburg was likely to have a different view from a Muslim region such as Dagestan. And he was against the Russian Orthodox Church's calls for a ban on abortion.
Would Putin register him to run, Sobchak asked at the end of the hour-long interview.
"My getting registered doesn't depend on Putin," said Navalny. "It depends on whether my supporters can put on enough pressure."
Certainly Navalny is better known now across the vast country than he was in 2013, when he was let out of jail to run in the Moscow mayoral elections, in the end coming second behind Sergei Sobyanin.

Sobyanin may also have played into Navalny's hands by announcing a program to demolish Khrushchev-era apartment blocks and relocate 1.6 million Muscovites to new developments. This is proving hugely unpopular with conservative flat owners and may push some of them to join the vocal and internet-savvy young people already demanding change under the slogan "enough is enough".

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks For Sharing Your Views