Saturday, January 31, 2009

Putin's popular support nosediving in Russia

Russians are a fickle bunch it seems. As long as oil and gas prices were flying high and Russia was bullying small neighboring states, they loved their Vladimir Putin, whether as president or prime minister.

But with Russia's economy circling the drain along with everyone else's, old Vladimir isn't looking so hot any more.
The march was sanctioned on the condition that demonstrators kept off the road, carried no banners and chanted no slogans. [That's not a demonstration, that's just a bunch of people walking on the sidewalk. --ed.]

The marchers blithely ignored the restrictions. Marching down the city's main street, they chanted "Putin resign!". Some banners [even compared] the prime minister to Hitler.

Although only several hundred began the march, ordinary passersby applauded in encouragement as they passed and many even joined them. By the time the demonstrators reached their finishing point in a square dominated by a statue of Lenin, their number had swelled to nearly 2,000.

It might not seem like a huge number, but the government has reason to be worried. Russia is a country where most dissenters -- save for a small hardcore group led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov - have been cowed into submission.
If the unrest spreads, watch for Putin to enact some form of emergency measures to completely stifle dissent (even more so than now) and stay in power indefinitely.

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