Not simply Navalny: Financial woes additionally drive Russians to protest | Coronavirus pandemic Information
The trigger for some of the biggest protests against Russia in years was the arrest of opposition politician and Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, who was arrested last month after returning to the country after surviving being poisoned by a nerve agent.
However, the anger goes deeper. Some protesters young and old say they also took to the streets to express their frustration with falling living standards and the perceived gap between a small, affluent elite and ordinary people.
Real income fell 3.5 percent over the past year, unemployment is at its highest level since 2011, and the 2020 economy, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is estimated to have seen its sharpest decline in 11 years.
Disillusionment with inequality was addressed by Navalny in a YouTube video posted shortly after his imprisonment and viewed more than 106 million times, showing a 100 billion ruble ($ 1.31 billion) palace complex in southern Russia.
Navalny claimed its ultimate owner was President Vladimir Putin, a claim the Kremlin denies. Since then, Putin’s former judo sparring partner has said he owns it.
Alexandra, who protested in Moscow on January 23, said she was shocked by the video, especially at a time when medical professionals were battling the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can imagine the kind of bonus doctors get: about 17,000 rubles ($ 223),” said the 24-year-old student, who refused to give her last name for fear of repercussions on authorities.
“And it [the video] I really understood it, it was the last straw, and I decided to protest, “added Alexandra.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of major cities across the country on January 23 and just over a week later, though the numbers were fewer. Officials say the protesters’ estimates of the crowd are exaggerated.
Police arrested thousands of people on both days and hundreds of riot police were deployed in central Moscow over the weekend to quell dissent.
“Here for my grandma”
While many demonstrators rallied under the banner of Navalny, which they say was being persecuted by the authorities for opposing Putin, that was not the only reason to risk arrest. The Kremlin denies having treated Navalny unfairly.
Sonya, a young protester in Moscow on January 31, said she supported the opposition fire but was also motivated by economic pressures.
Police officers arrest a man during a rally in Moscow in support of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]”[Our] The country is in utter chaos … look at the way pensioners live, “she told Reuters News as she carried a gold toilet brush, a symbol of protest inspired by the alleged presence of such brushes on the property presented by Navalny .
“I’m here for my family, for my grandma. I will live in this country for many years to come, but I want my relatives to live better than they do now. “
The ruble falls on fears of new Western sanctions over the Navalny case. This threatens to push inflation, which reached 4.9 percent last year, further above the central bank’s target of 4 percent.
Putin himself expressed concern about rising food prices, a phenomenon that prompted the government to impose export taxes on some foods to keep them in the country and cool prices.
Putin, who was re-elected for the fourth time in 2018, promised that real disposable income would rise steadily and that the poverty rate would fall to 6.5 percent by 2024.
Those two goals have now been postponed by six years to 2030, with officials citing the pandemic as the reason.
The number of people living below the poverty line in Russia reached 18.8 million, or 12.8 percent of Russia’s total, in the third quarter of last year, official data shows. The number of people in this category increased by 700,000 compared to 2019.