A few weeks ago protests in Russia called by the Western-backed ‘liberal’ opposition activist and blogger Alexey Navalny attracted a disproportionate amount of attention in the Western media. This was despite the fact that the turnout in those protests – probably in the region of 15-20,000 people across the whole country (not the 60,000 people the ‘liberal opposition’ itself claims) – was hardly impressive.
Since then there have been two other attempts to stage more such protests.
The first was on 2nd April 2017. However the turnout was so derisory, with more police and media turning out to cover the protests than protesters, that Navalny and most of the other well-known leaders of Russia’s ‘liberal’ opposition denied having anything to do with them.
The second was made today when the Open Russia group of the self-exiled oligarch ‘liberal’ Mikhail Khodorkovsky also tried to stage opposition protests across Russia.
The best that can be said about today’s protests is that they were bigger than the protests on 2nd April 2017. However in all other respects turnout was again derisory, with the police claiming that no more than 250 people turned up in Moscow and 150 in St. Petersburg.
RT has provided details of various other scattered protests which happened in various Russian regional towns and cities. However nowhere does the number of protesters appear to have been more than in the few hundreds, and in the majority of cases it seems to have been significantly less than this.
Whilst I cannot say with any certainty how many people turned out to protest across the whole of Russia today, based on the information I have seen I doubt it could have been more than a few thousand, if that. I say this though as night follows day the ‘liberal opposition’ will claim some much higher figure, which the Western media will (of course) uncritically reproduce.
Though it is hardly my job to give Russia’s ‘liberal’ opposition advice, I would suggest to them that their recent tactic of holding protests illegally instead of accepting the venues the authorities offer them, and of trying to hold their protests across the whole of Russia instead of concentrating them in Moscow, is a mistake.
They would produce a far more impressive crowd, and make their protests look a lot more credible and news worthy if – as they did in 2011 and 2012 – they protested legally, and if they gathered all their people in one place in Moscow. Though in terms of the political situation in Russia or indeed in Moscow the crowd of 20-30,000 people which that might produce on a good day would not be at all impressive, it would at least make for some nice pictures, which the organisers of the protests could show their Western funders to show they are giving value for money. The Western media would in that case also have a nice story to play with.
Of course an alternative more cynical view might be that the ‘liberal opposition’ are choosing to hold their protests illegally and to spread them out across Russia because they are no longer confident that they would in fact be able to bring out a crowd of 20-30,000 people in one place in Moscow. If so, then spreading out the protests across the whole of Russia and holding them illegally is a way of concealing the fact.
In reality these protests – like Navalny’s previous protests and the ones which were held on 2nd April 2017 – are peripheral to the real politics of the country, in which the organisers of the protests have no actual role, as shown by their total failure to win elections anywhere in Russia.
The most concerning fact about these protests is not that they happen – protests are bound to happen in a country like Russia, just as they happen in every other country in Europe and north America – but the way they are being reported in the West.
The ludicrously disproportionate amount of attention they and their organises receive in the Western media (with the Guardian for example publishing an interview with Navalny today) is grossly misleading to the Western public, giving the false impression that these individuals are important in Russia, when in reality they are not.
In the meantime the real news about what is actually happening in Russia – the world’s largest country, now re-established as a Great Power – goes almost entirely unreported.