Will Russia Ever Be Free?
“Russia will be free.” “Putin lies.” “Free Navalny.” These were phrases found on the plethora of posters displayed across Russia these past few days. Sparked by the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, intense and crowded protests have remained consistent these past few days, regardless of the dangerously low temperatures and violent officials. While officials have detained over 3,000 protestors, thousands more swarm the streets to assure Navalny’s immediate release.
Before his arrest, Putin and the rest of the Russian government acted apathetic towards Navalny. Possibly hoping that, if they ignored the problem, it would go away on its own. They found this approach counterproductive, as Navalny became a beacon of hope, an inspiration, to many brave Russians seeking change. While Putin continued to act uncaring towards this, he was stealthily attempting to have Navalny killed, going as far as poisoning him this August. Of course, Putin denies these claims. Navalny's recently published investigation on Putin's 'secret palace' depicts a funded construction of a mansion complete with an indoor ice-hockey rink, an $850 toilet brush, and pole-dancing stage. His latest arrest has fueled the fire in many passionate Russians and caused protests as large as in 2011. Viktor F. Rau, a liberal activist in Barnaul, reports that “people are tired of this authoritarian regime, of the chaos, of the corruption.” The chaos has continued. In the city of Khabarovsk, a dozen protestors were detained and beaten. In Vladivostok, the Novaya Gazeta reports “at least one person taken to a police van unconscious” While some assume that these terrifying reactions from police, coupled with temperatures as low as -60°F, would keep protestors home, this is not the case. One journalist, Sergey Gorodishenin, has witnessed first-hand the passion and persistence these protestors have and believes that "the next protest will see more people, not fewer," and when describing the protests, Gorodishenin adds that he has "never seen anything like this in Vologda."
These protests will not only be dominant in the future of young Russians, but Putin may begin to take his anger out on President Biden. After their call this week it is apparent Alexey Navalny's poisoning and arrest was brought up, as well as the SolarWinds cyberattacks. Funny enough, the Kremlin's summary of their phone call did not include this part of the discussion. The Kremlin describes their conversation as "businesslike and frank." While analysts are uncertain of what the future holds, I believe that the Russian protestors will not give up. Putin's misgovernance and abusive power have led them to a breaking point. Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, agrees, and says “We’re going to see a long period of confrontation between the opposition and the authorities, and it’s very hard to say how it will end.” Stanovaya even describes these protests as "a revolution." Whatever the future holds, there is one thing for sure, there is no turning back from the "revolution" occurring.