Two of Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critics have joined forces and announced plans for large-scale anti-Putin protests in Moscow on March 1st. Activist and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, currently under house arrest, announced the protest online this week when he published his letter to the government requesting permission for the march. The letter is cosigned by the famous Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsy, who despite living in exile in Switzerland, had previously announced that he is prepared to run for president against Putin should he remain unable to prevent a financial crisis or to combat corruption within the Russian government. This is the first time these two prominent anti-Putin voices have presented a united front. From Newsweek:
According to the letter, the ‘anti-crisis’ protest will be called ‘Spring’, alluding to the non-violent revolutions which toppled Communist governments in eastern Europe after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1989. Navalny has already said he will call for Putin’s resignation during the protest due to his “inability” to manage the Russian economy.
“We would like the demonstration to go ahead and we trust we will be able to avoid the eternal fuss about whether we had any or enough legal permission to protest,” Navalny wrote on his blog.
The current economic situation in Russia is dire. Oil revenue has fallen sharply, the ruble has lost over half of its value, and many indications point to the country being on the verge of a catastrophic recession. Meanwhile, when the Russian government presented their plans for bolstering the troubled economy, experts scoffed. From the New York Times:
Anton Siluanov, the finance minister, laid out the government’s long-promised “anti-crisis” package in a live broadcast on state television last week, a laundry list of half-measures and a vague promise of a 10 percent budget cut that economists almost unanimously dismissed as inadequate.
“That plan is nonsense,” the Russian oligarch Aleksandr Y. Lebedev said in an interview, describing it as throwing away money to rescue some of Russia’s worst companies. “Lots of words and little specific.”
Clearly, Putin is going to need to offer real solutions for Russia’s economic woes and entrenched culture of political corruption. So far, he has offered little more than lowering the price of vodka to keep the civil unrest at bay.
(Photo: World Economic Forum)