Not just Navalnya: Economic crisis also motivates Russians to oppose

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    Real income in Russia fell 3.5 percent last year and unemployment is at its highest level since 2011.

    The trigger of some of the biggest protests in Russia for years was the arrest of opposition politician and critic of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny, who was detained last month after returning to the country after being poisoned by a nerve agent.

    However, the anger deepens. Some protesters, young and old, say they have taken to the streets to vent their frustration over the decline in living standards and perceived differences between a younger, richer elite and the common people.

    Real income fell 3.5 percent last year, unemployment is at its highest level since 2011 and the economy, hardened by the coronovirus epidemic in 2020, is projected to be its fastest contraction in 11 years.

    Disagreement over inequality was targeted in a YouTube video, released soon after his detention and viewed more than 106 million times, showcasing the 100 billion-ruble ($ 1.31bn) palace complex in southern Russia .

    Navalny alleged that his ultimate boss was President Vladimir Putin, an allegation of the Kremlin’s denial. Since then, Putin’s former judo partner has said that he owns it.

    Alexandra, who protested in Moscow on 23 January, said she was surprised by the video, especially when medics were battling a coronovirus epidemic.

    “I can think of what kind of bonuses doctors get: about 17,000 rubles ($ 223),” said the 24-year-old student, who refused to give his surname with the authorities out of fear of consequences.

    “And this [the video] In fact I had it, it was the last straw, and I decided to protest, ”said Alexandra.

    On 23 January, tens of thousands of people arrived on the streets of major cities across the country and a week later, though the number was small. Officials say the projections of the crowd of protesting leaders were exaggerated.

    Police arrested thousands of people both days, and on weekends in central Moscow, hundreds of riot police were deployed to spark dissent.

    ‘Here for my grandmother’

    While many protesters rallied under Navalny’s banner, who say they were persecuted by authorities for their opposition to Putin, it was not merely a risk of arrest. The Kremlin denied mistreating Navalny.

    On 31 January, Sonya, a young Russian defender from Moscow, said she supported the opposition firebrand but was also motivated by economic pressure.

    Law enforcement officials detain a man during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

    “[Our] The country is in complete chaos… Look at how pensioners live, ”she told Reuters News, as she cleaned a golden toilet brush, a symbol of protest inspired by the alleged presence of such brushes in the property that Navalni had shown.

    “I’m here for my family, for my grandmother.” I will live in this country for many years to come, but I want my relatives to be better than now. “

    In the case of the ruble navy is falling on fears of new Western sanctions. It threatens to push inflation, which reached 4.9 percent last year, well above the central bank’s target of 4 percent.

    Putin himself has expressed concern about rising food prices, a phenomenon that prompted the government to impose an export tax on certain foods to keep the country in place and for quieter prices.

    Re-elected for the fourth time in 2018, Putin pledged that real disposable incomes would steadily increase and by 2024 the poverty rate would fall to 6.5 percent.

    Those two targets have now been postponed for six years to 2030, with officials reporting the cause of the epidemic.

    According to official figures, the number of people in Russia living below the poverty line in the third quarter of last year was 18.8 million, or 12.8 percent of Russia’s total. The number of people in that category increased by 700,000 compared to 2019.


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