Tuesday, March 28, 2017

...soon shake your windows

"The Backstory Behind The Massive Nationwide Protests In Russia"

by Nick Robins-Early

The World Post
Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute

Tens of thousands of people in more than 90 cities across Russia rallied against government corruption on Sunday -- the largest nationwide protest of its kind in over five years.  The demonstrations showed surprising levels of support for public criticism of the Kremlin and were both larger and more widespread than expected.

Russian authorities reacted by clamping down on protesters, journalists and even some passersby.  There were at least 700 arrests linked to the protests, including that of leading Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny,

who was sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined.

Although the demonstrations were unexpectedly large, they had been planned for weeks, sparked by a viral investigative video that Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation released on March 2.  The report alleged that Russia's prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, had accumulated vast real estate holdings through bribery and graft. ...

"The former president, acting prime minister and Russia's second in command has created a corrupt network of charity foundations that he uses to get bribes from the oligarchs and to maniacally build himself palaces and dachas all around the country," Navalny states in the report....

The Anti-Corruption Foundation video has now been viewed over 13 million times on YouTube and has outraged many Russians.  Medvedev and the Kremlin were silent on the corruption allegations, but some lawmakers in the country's lower house of Parliament have called for an investigation.

Corruption is a deep and pervasive problem in Russia in both the public and private sector.  Transparency International, a nongovernmental organization that monitors corruption, ranks Russia 131st out of 176 countries on its corruption perception index.

Russian government agencies and officials have faced widespread corruption allegations in recent years.  The Panama Papers leaks last year suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his family were connected to offshore holdings and loans worth at least $2 billion through friends and intermediary companies.

But unlike Navalny's video, the Panama Papers revelations mostly prompted a shrug in Russia.  The country's media did not cover the allegations against Putin extensively, and the president dismissed the accusations as a foreign plot to weaken Russia. 

In other countries, the leaks resulted in huge demonstrations and resignations of top officials, yet only a small group of protesters turned up in Moscow.

The demonstrations on Sunday, however, were notable for a number of reasons -- including the seemingly large percentage of younger protesters and the willingness of participants to show up despite authorities' warnings that they lacked a permit. 

The Kremlin has tried to downplay the rallies by claiming that some protesters were paid to attend, while state-run government television has barely covered them.