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On Saturday, December 15, protest actions were staged in several Russian cities. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the opposition, according to official data, managed to gather a total of only about a thousand people. The participants of the actions at the Solovki Stone in Moscow say that there were some five thousand protesters. The unsanctioned action took place in Moscow without mass detentions. Members of the Coordination Council of the Opposition Ilya Yashin and Alexei Navalny described the Saturday action generally successful.
Saturday’s events at Lubyanka Square where about a thousand opposition members gathered, have shown a sharp decline in the citizens’ interest in this kind of protests, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes. The speakers at the rallies did not understand the aspirations of the majority of the participants in these actions, believes the publication. From 100 hundred thousand to 1,000 protesters – that’s the decline rate. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, the organisers of the public actions need an immediate battle, and their participants - an effective protest against the political parties on specific occasions.
How can the relatively mild reaction of the authorities to the actions of the opposition be explained? the newspaper wonders - by the knowledge of its weaknesses? In the view of member of the scientific council of the Moscow Carnegie Centre Nikolai Petrov, “it was very important for” Vladimir Putin “to turn the tide, show the absence or weakness of political protest. It is this idea that was running through the RF president’s state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly. The president sets himself up as the father of the nation, and not as the president of the majority that is hostile to the dissatisfied minority.” The Kremlin, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta source is certain, “really believes that the scale of political protests does not pose a major threat: but, on the other hand, he has taken a pacification tack that rejects confrontation in which Putin was from the beginning of the presidential election campaign.”
In addition, Petrov recalled, Putin is yet to pay a visit to Brussels to attend the EU-Russia Summit, which is also an important foreign policy factor: “We have seen in the (presidential) address the practical absence of any statements, to say nothing of the harsh foreign policy statements. And now when Putin is going there, the last thing he needs is to have everyone’s attention focused on clamping down on a protest rally.”
What comes to the front? The Izvestia daily asks. And answers: a moderate regime. That they (the protesters) were treated gently and were even allowed to lay flowers and stay in the square for more than an hour.
According to the newspaper, the fact that the number of protesters has decreased dramatically also strikes the eye. The bourgeois leaders throughout the past year were boasting of the number of participants. Now they have nothing to boast about.
Meanwhile, in the view of political scientist Alexei Makarkin, the opposition has intuitively adopted a winning strategy, not agreeing to a compromise with the mayor’s office.
“An authorised action would not have gathered more than 10,000 people, it would be compared with the September rally in Sakharov Avenue and it would give rise to talk about the protest actions’ decline,” the expert emphasises in a commentary for the Vedomosti daily.
The Vedomosti daily’s editorial opinion focuses on an entirely different question: “How the authorities will act further? Now they seem to have recovered from fright and thought they could return status quo that existed before December 2011.
The Novye Izvestia daily writes that the first anniversary since the beginning of the Russian mass protests has been marked for over a week already. And each new opposition rally is necessarily tied to the calendar date of one of last year’s mass people’s street actions. However, the Saturday’s Freedom March in Moscow has shown that there are not so many frost tolerant citizens who are ready to come to a protest action not authorised by the government. Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin believes that people have began to look for other ways to solve their daily problems. “Someone thinks it is time to leave the country, someone starts to think if this is the right time to exchange the roubles for a foreign currency? Everyone has his own approach,” the analyst said. “Someone thinks if he should strain and send his child to study abroad to avoid conscription. The protest from the public and street space is moving to some other strata or spheres. However, the authorities are satisfied with this, because they are afraid only of mass street actions. They think that when noting is happening in the streets - there is no protest.”
The Kommersant daily reports that the Coordination Council of the Opposition intends to stage its next major action that will have the form of a procession, in spring 2013. “We will now take a more careful approach to the preparation of major events, as this year has shown that in some cases we have made organisational errors,” member of the Coordination Council of the Opposition Sergei Udaltsov said. Former member of the State Duma lower house of parliament Gennady Gudkov, who is also member of the Council, has proposed to hold the next event in the form of a rock concert and organise it in February. “It could be a rock concert named Freedom. We can choose one of the major venues and attract musicians and politicians,” said Gudkov.