• Melissa Rosales

EIV: Russians protest against corruption

Link to story: http://www.eivnews.com/archives/5283

Estimates of more than 60,000 Russians participated in an anti-corruption protest against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last Sunday according to Boston Globe.

Protesters demonstrated on the streets of 82 Russian cities carrying sneakers and rubber ducks, NBC News reports. Many of the rallies were unauthorized, including the ones in Moscow where more than 1,000 demonstrators were arrested.

The protest was led by opposition leader Alexei Navalny who published a high-profile expose of Medvedev’s extravagant spendings. One of the allegations claims Medvedev owns a duck house in his estate and ordered 73 t-shirts and 20 pairs of sneakers in three months.

Protesters stressed the allegations by carrying rubber ducks and sneakers. Some even painted their face green in support for Navalny, after unknown assailants threw green antiseptic at him last week.

According to Navalny’s reports, the Russian prime minister owns various estates in Russia, including vineyards and two yachts in Tuscany. Medvedev’s spokesperson dismissed all allegations. On the day of the protest, Medvedev was asked how he spent the day on Instagram, where he responded: “Had a good day, I went skiing.”

Alexei Navalny is Russia’s most successful opposition politician. The 40-year-old is known for conducting scathing investigations into Russian officials’ corruption.

Navalny is attempting to win a bid for the 2018 presidential elections. However, the government asserts that he is not allowed to run due to several criminal cases, including embezzlement. Navalny says such charges are fake and attempts to deny him a chance to run as president.

In Moscow, Navalny was arrested for 15 days and fined $350 after the protest. The protest was largely peaceful until riot police intervened using tear gas. Police also physically beat demonstrators, including women. A majority of the protesters were, in fact, teenagers and people in their early 20s.

“I’ve lived all my life under Putin,” said Matvei, a 17-year-old from Moscow. He was almost arrested in the protest but was able to run from the police. “We need to move forward, not constantly refer to the past.”

Reuters said teens heard about the protests through Navalny’s messages on YouTube and VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. Navalny used the Internet to bypass state-controlled media.

The protest on Sunday was Russia’s largest demonstration in at least four years.

“Yesterday’s rallies, especially the number of them in outlying regions — we haven’t seen anything like that since the 1980s — first of all shows how completely artificial that famous 84 percent support [for Putin’s administration] is,” Navalny told The Washington Post.

Putin spokesmen Dmitry Peskov did not believe the protest was a sign of anything significant. Instead, he claims that the organizers lied to demonstrators in saying it was legal to protest. He also says there is evidence that teenagers were paid to protest.

“We cannot respect those who deliberately misled underage minors promising them some payment in return for participating in an unauthorized protest, thereby exposing them to danger. We cannot accept, nor respect this,” Peskov said.