A day after a massive demonstration across Russia against the arrest of activist Alexei Navalni, the Kremlin played down Sunday’s actions (24) and declared that it would not “rock the boat” of President Vladimir Putin.
The words came from Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov in an interview on state-run Russia-1. At the same time, he addressed a gesture of gratitude to the demonstrators, saying that “they are also Russian citizens”.
“I respect all points of view, but I strongly oppose participation in any unauthorized act,” he said, referring to the violent crackdown on acts which led to the detention of more than 3,100 people.
Peskov spoke on a white plate program, aptly called “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin,” and can be heard as the voice of the leader.
On Saturday (23), tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets of a hundred cities to demand the release of Navalni, arrested last Sunday (17) on his return from Germany to Russia.
He was in Berlin after being treated for poisoning that doctors attributed to the nerve agent Novichok (novice, in Russian), created in the former Soviet Union and used today by the country’s security services.
Navalni, who posted a recording with a spy who admitted to using the poison, accused Putin of attempted murder. The Kremlin denies the accusation.
“Few will say that many people participated in illegal marches [do sábado]. No, there were few. A lot of people vote for Putin, ”Peskov recalled, citing the 78% who voted last year in a referendum on a constitutional change that paves the way for the president to try to stay in power until 2036.
Apart from the usual suspicions of fraud, Peskov is based on a reality highlighted by political scientists. In Putin’s 21 years in power, the fossilization of political structures with a democratic veneer has been encouraged.
Thus, the voter knows that, in the order of things, the opposition parties participate in the elections, but basically they have no institutional conditions to govern in the event of victory. This corrosion of mobility by voting leads to conformism, but only to a certain extent.
This was seen on Saturday. Navalni is not a popular opposition figure. He has 2% intention to vote for president, as an independent study by the Levada Center pointed out in November. But at that time, he symbolized society’s boredom with the rules of the game.
This has happened on other occasions. In the days of 2012, against Putin’s new election, the middle class encouraged by the president was irritated and demanded more from the government. In 2017, it was the turn of young people mobilized on the internet, people who grew up without seeing a leader other than Putin.
This group has been galvanized by Navalni and is making noise, although that doesn’t subvert the belief that he can be president, for example.
The activist realized this and began to bet on another tactic: to stimulate all the candidatures, at local or regional level, which could defeat United Russia, the party in power.
It worked punctually in the 2019 and 2020 elections, and now there are plans to do the same in the most important parliamentary elections in September.
Peskov can play it all down, but the authorities’ attitude towards the return of Navalni, who left the country in a coma and was charged with violating his probation for a sentence he described as fraudulent in 2014 suggests something different.
The activist had his plane hijacked from the arrival airport, was arrested and on the 2nd faced an audience who could give him three and a half years in prison. He had previously been barred from running against Putin by judicial thoroughness in 2018.
Still, Peskov’s reference to the obvious fact that the protesters are citizens of his country perhaps shows an attempt at openness. In 2012, this happened in the form of the return of direct elections for governors, for example.
Moreover, the Kremlin has again accused the West of trying to interfere in the country. While the intention in general exists, the case cited by the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot be supported: the file indicates that the United States attempted to instigate the acts of Saturday simply because it published a notice of the sites. demonstration on the Embassy’s website.
In reality, the Embassy wanted to alert American citizens to avoid such points, a common practice throughout the diplomatic service around the world. “Of course, these posts are inappropriate,” Peskov said. US officials have been asked to explain the situation.
At the same time, he said the Putin government was ready to speak to Joe Biden’s new administration in the White House. “There will be a dialogue where, of course, the differences have to be made explicit. But it is possible to find rational cores in which our relationship comes closer,” he said.
The American has already taken the first step by accepting the Russian proposal to extend a nuclear weapons limitation agreement, while calling for an investigation into the Navalni affair.