Can the Moscow protests put real pressure on Putin?

This weekend tens of thousands of people once again demonstrated in Moscow against the exclusion of opposition candidates from the Moscow City Duma elections at the start of September. This time, however, the rally was authorised. On the two previous weekends hundreds of demonstrators were arrested. Commentators discuss why the protests could mark a turning point in Russia.

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Sega (BG) /

Even the fearful are daring to protest now

The protests in Moscow are bringing the Russian opposition together for the first time, Sega comments:

“Russia is ripe for political change, so the tiniest victory for the opposition could give wings to the fearful and desperate Russians, who until now couldn't believe that anything depended on them. ... In the aftermath of the scandalous campaign against Moscow's Duma those in power have achieved the impossible. They have united the opposition. For the first time voters have been able to see the democratic candidates supporting each other, united by their sense of moral superiority. This is the start of a huge political consolidation process.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Far more peaceful than the yellow vests

Alexey Kovalev praises the protest movement in Moscow for being non-violent so far in an opinion piece in The Guardian:

“State propaganda chose the familiar route of justifying police violence: look, TV pundits and officials said, in Paris, Hamburg and Hong Kong riot police used teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets, seriously injuring some, so we're going easy on you! These false equivalences couldn’t be less relevant. Unlike Paris, not a single shop window in Moscow has been smashed, not a single car torched. … And unlike the gilets jaunes' (yellow vests') grand demands, the opposition's goals seem almost insignificant in comparison: let opposition candidates stand in the Moscow City Duma - council - elections on 8 September.”

BNS (LT) /

Putin will be sacrificed like a pawn

The end of the Putin era won't be long in coming, British journalist Edward Lucas predicts in BNS:

“The latest protests in Moscow show that for much of the population in the big cities the time for major change has come. But Russia is a large country. I don't expect a big bang followed by a change of regime. It's more likely that Putin will be sacrificed by the political forces due to his sinking popularity. A secret political deal brought him to power, and a secret political deal could also topple him. A cosmetic change is more plausible than a revolution.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Demonstrators want political alternatives

The demonstrators are no longer simply protesting the exclusion of opposition candidates from the Moscow City Council election, observes Der Tagesspiegel:

“They don't like the way President Vladimir Putin has been governing the country for almost 20 years and denying citizens participation in political decisions. But civil society lives on. The willingness to protest is even increasing, and along with it the hope that change will come, that there will be less corruption, that they will have more say, there will be less poverty and higher living standards. They can hardly expect this from Putin. They want to overcome the paralysis and find alternatives to the arrogant posturing of the state power.”

Wedomosti (RU) /

Against state violence and for human dignity

Vedomosti also sees the protests becoming broader in their focus:

“What started as local dissatisfaction over the exclusion of opposition candidates from the Moscow City Duma election has grown three weeks later - after the brutal crackdown on unauthorised protests and the absurd investigations into 'mass riots' - into far more widespread discontent: directed against state violence and for human dignity in all forms. ... Rather than fragmenting the movement, this development has increased its potential audience. People have shown that they're ready to go out and march not only for an election candidate, but also for that candidate's battered voters. And not just against curtailed voting rights, but also for the right of peaceful assembly and other civil freedoms.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Civil society stands firm

The Kremlin's disinformation campaign hasn't fazed the demonstrators so far, the Tages-Anzeiger notes:

“It's bad enough that the state-controlled media are vilifying the marchers. But worst still is that they are going even further and systematically twisting facts in Putin's favour and spreading fake information on a large scale. The effect is like a slow-acting poison. Instead of informing their audiences and preparing them for civil action the media create people who feel uninvolved and take refuge in lethargy, cynicism and fervent patriotism. So it's both surprising and delightful to see that despite the ongoing information war, civil society has not let itself be intimidated.”