Russia: Protests have been taking place in Russia for some time. Navalny is the face and one reason for these protests, but the country’s growing poverty and income crisis is also forcing people to do it.
Since the onset of the coronavirus epidemic, crowds of people have increased in Moscow’s Martha and Mary convent. Many monastic institutions have centers in this white-walled monastery. These organizations distribute food packets to people here for free, apart from other programs.
Yelena Timoschuk, a social worker at an institution called Miloserdi, says, “Before the pandemic, we used to have 30-40 people every day. Now 50-60 people have started coming; the work has increased a lot.” A lot of packets of sunflower oil are placed on the table of Timoshuk.
Most of the people who come in queues to take kootu, sugar, tea, and other things are retired people. However, some people have either lost their jobs or whose salaries have been cut along with them.
The coronavirus epidemic has made Russia’s low economy worse. The situation is getting worse due to Western countries’ restrictions, falling oil prices, and weak business investment. Analysts say that President Vladimir Putin’s support is declining in the face of rising poverty, dwindling earnings, and lack of adequate government support in times of epidemics. Putin has been in power in Russia for two decades with a substantial majority, but now his opponents are getting stronger.
Thousands of people have been protesting in Russia over the past few weeks over a call for a major protest from Putin’s jailed. Navalny’s team is planning more demonstrations before the parliamentary elections to be held in September.
The currency held by the people in Russia has shrunk by 3.5 percent in the last half-decade. Meanwhile, the prices of food items have increased a lot. Sensing the people’s growing anger from falling living standards, President Putin ordered ministers to take emergency measures to stop the rise in December prices. Despite this, the cost of sugar in January was about 64 percent higher than a year ago. Sandra, 66, said that she has stopped going to the supermarket and instead is going to social organizations to get free food. Sandra, who lives on a pension, says, “You can’t buy anything. Earlier I used to give food to sparrows, but now it has become difficult to buy food grains.”
Igor Nikolayev, head of strategic analysis at FBK Grant Thornton, says, “The current situation is not looking good for political results. The risk has increased for officials.” Nikolayev says elderly Russians are particularly “sensitive” to rising prices. These people have seen that phase of inflation after which the Soviet Union incident occurred in 1991. Nikolayev believes that the Russian government can bring a new economic package before the parliamentary elections because of people’s displeasure.
In a recent survey conducted by an independent agency, Levada Center, 43 percent of Russians did not deny that the current protests are being motivated by economic demands. Earlier this level was shown in 1998. The survey also revealed that 17 percent of the respondents were ready to participate in the demonstrations themselves.
Lewada Deputy Director Denis Volkov says that the recent demonstrations show that the people’s anger towards the authorities is coming out of the marginalized opposition and because of many protesters coming out due to economic difficulties.
In the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, Volkov wrote, “The authorities have nothing to offer to those who are unhappy with the policies.” He has also pointed to the increasing wealth of Russian nobles and the growing division in society.
Yekaterina Nikiforova, who attended a rally in the Pacific Port of Vladivostok to support Navalny, said that the country is at a standstill. This political science student told the news agency AFP that she does not see any economic opportunity or political development. 22-year-old Arseni Dmitriev attended the rally in St. Petersburg, and he has the same opinion. This sociology student said, “By looking at the figures, I have understood that the income coming in hand is decreasing, and the standard of living is not improving.”