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Russians more critical of street protests since government coup in Kiev

November 11, 2014, 16:26 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Iliya Pitalev/TASS

MOSCOW, November 11. /TASS/. Defying Western pressures on Russia, citizens are showing not the slightest intention of taking to the streets to demonstrate under slogans of protest. Ordinary people would rather campaign over living standards and rights than put forward political demands, Levada Centre pollsters discovered in an opinion survey on October 24-27.

A tiny 12% of respondents rated demonstrations as a way to press political demands. Only 8% of those polled were prepared to join them — one of the lowest indices in recent years.

“People have no intention to turn out for protest actions. The underlying motive is "This is not the right moment",” Levada Centre deputy director Aleksey Grazhdankin said of poll findings. In his opinion after events in Ukraine's capital Kiev, where street protests triggered a government coup, the people of Russia have taken a worsening attitude to protests. Public attention is riveted to Ukraine's armed conflict.

“Fear of war overpowers all other fears and phobias,” Grazhdankin says. As for demonstrations in support of socio-economic demands, the pollster says 17% of respondents believe they are possible while 12% were ready to take part in them.

“Protest activity developed a downward trend two years ago after opposition demonstrations in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square," Political Technologies Center general director Igor Bunin told TASS. "The middle class must have decided: 'It makes no use demonstrating since the Bolotnaya Square protests reached nowhere." Society is getting depoliticized. Individualistic attitudes are gaining the upper hand."

"People prefer to concentrate on their own problems," he added. "Besides, after Crimea’s reunification with Russia, the idea of unity has gained strength in people’s minds and the ratings of the president and other government institutions have grown.”

Protest demonstrations taking place in Russia these days were "local and industrial", Bunin said. Rallies by medical workers in Moscow and Ufa against the closure of hospitals and outpatient clinics were examples. But none of these demonstrations had an ideological side, he said. “As long as the government has enough money to pay budget-financed wages, pensions and social benefits, protest actions in the country will not boil over though popular patience is not infinite.”

Globalization Problems Institute director Mikhail Delyagin told TASS: “The level of protest sentiment in the country has no correlation to anti-Russian sanctions by the West. Existing economic and social problems in Russia are by no means related to Barack Obama or the EU countries.

"In January 2014, when events in Ukraine had not reached the critical point yet and there were no sanctions against Moscow, capital flight from Russia soared to $20 billion," he added. "The first wave of ruble devaluation occurred in January 2014, lasting until May. In other words, Russia’s current economic and financial problems stem from purely internal circumstances.

“Levada's poll was held at the end of October, before the ruble nose-dived in the first days of November. Up to that moment, people had remained relatively calm. They were reluctant to go and demonstrate so as to avoid playing into the hands of western politicians who were tightening sanctions against Russia,” Delyagin said.

“Current depoliticization of society is not a sign of apathy but evidence of solidarity with the authorities, a vote of confidence," the observer added. "But this resource may be exhausted, as seen in the November 2 demonstration by 6,000 medics in Moscow against reform of the health service."

"Towards next spring, such demonstrations may follow in other regions of Russia, where complacent local elites are doing nothing to address the people’s essential problems or may even engineer social protests to squeeze subsidies out of the federal government. Let me say once again, neither Obama nor the West in general has anything to do with that. The authorities should just get a move on," he said.


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