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Russians Getting a Bit Fed Up with Putin's Corruption; Thousands of Protesters Jailed Across Russia

Russian police arrested more than 3,400 people yesterday as tens of thousands in Moscow and across Russia took to the streets demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe. Navalny was arrested upon his return from Germany where he had been undergoing treatment after being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. Few doubt that Putin ordered the attack and it follows a series of earlier political assassinations. Most Russian dissidents don't live very long and those that do end up in prison.

Quartz: "Russia has suppressed political opposition using an arsenal of techniques. These range from laws limiting free assembly and other civil rights, to jailing protestors for vague offenses such as “hooliganism,” to using the notoriously corrupt courts to convict opponents of embezzlement or tax fraud, to straightforward police intimidation, as well as murder. Prominent opponents have been forced into silence or exile."

The Navalny protests in recent days probably don't pose an immediate threat to Putin's government, but they do signal that a growing number of Russians are fed up with his administration's legendary corruption, rigged elections, and years of economic stagnation.

The Biden administration, which is likely to take a much harder line on Putin than its predecessor, issued a statement yesterday saying that Navalny's supporters have a right to peaceful protest.

The Independent.UK: "During the protests, embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross said on Twitter that “the U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights.” The embassy also tweeted a State Department statement calling for Navalny’s release."

Russian officials reacted angrily to the State Department's statement, saying that the Biden administration was interfering in its internal affairs.

The fascinating thing about Russia's recent political history is that Putin has remained fairly popular despite the years of corruption, endless wars with its neighbors, and a horrendous economy. He kills and jails opponents and rigs elections, even though he could probably remain in power without such tactics.

Despite a stagnant economy, Putin has always enjoyed widespread popularity according to opinion surveys. His success lies in his ability to tap into a deep sense of resentment over the Soviet Union's collapse and his efforts to restore Russian "greatness." And he understands the importance of controlling the flow of information within the country.

The Institute of Modern Russia: "Putin is, according to economist Sergei Guriev and political scientist Daniel Treisman, an “informational autocrat.” His regime’s deficiencies are known to elite insiders, but much effort is expended to prevent ordinary people from learning about any mistakes or policy failures. This is accomplished through the distortion of information flows. A tightly controlled and censored media is therefore an essential tool for maintaining Putin’s high approval ratings. Statistical analysis of public opinion in Russia that accounts for respondents’ media consumption habits confirms that people who watch state-controlled television news more strongly approve of Putin and his administration."

However, the size of the recent demonstrations may signal that Putin's hold on power is finally starting to slip a bit. Perhaps, but it's probably more likely that Nalvalny suffers some sort of horrible "accident" or is shipped off to Siberia. Former US Senator, John McCain said it best back in 2016 on CBS’s “Face of the Nation: “Vladimir Putin is a thug and a murderer and a killer and a KGB agent.”

#news #Putin #Russia

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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