Considering the limited attendance of the Peace March and that it was clearly held in the interests of the United States, which continues to mount pressure on the Russian authorities, the event can only be given a bad grade.
A show called Opposition Marches in Moscow, which was popular in 2011 but fizzled out a year later, has been revitalized this year, when a “contract” for holding an opposition march was filed for September 21, 2014.
Moscow participants were attracted by an opportunity to recall a time of public protests in 2011-2012, when the non-registered opposition capitalized on facts about the use of administrative resources during the parliamentary election in December 2011 to channel sociopolitical tensions into street walks and even a conflict with police that led to the Bolotnaya Square Case.
In my opinion, the protest leaders didn’t know then – and don’t know now – what to do with that “political capital.” They probably hoped that rallying the people was enough to spark a revolt that would topple the regime. However, they haven’t managed to rally serious support beyond Moscow, then or now.
Instead, potential allies have been repulsed by the opposition leaders’ hubris and unwillingness to consider even minor compromises.
In the current situation, an opposition march could not influence the so-called Ukrainian crisis. The ceasefire is still on, contrary to the efforts of the Party of War, the contact group continues to meet in Minsk, and OSCE observers are working in southeast Ukraine, which is why Ukrainian armed groups cannot shell peaceful civilians as intensively as they used to. Moreover, individual facts and evidence of crimes committed by various Ukrainian “battalions” can be put together into a complete picture of Kiev’s actions.
The Peace March on September 21 was expected to show the media that there was a group of people in Russia who don’t support the Russian government’s efforts to appease Kiev, which started the so-called anti-terrorist operation against its own people.
But all it accomplished was to complete the division of the Russian opposition, most of whom expressed support for the self-defense forces who have been fighting to protect people in Donbas from the highly specific actions of the Ukrainian armed forces, which destroyed houses, transport and industrial infrastructure in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Not many people gathered for the protest march, which was obviously initiated and supported by external forces, because of the successful Winter Olympics, the reunification with Crimea and public rejection of the anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine. Moreover, the march has been criticized by the majority of Russians.
The unregistered opposition is in a deep crisis of confidence, and even its most loyal supporters have come to mistrust it, as demonstrated at the recent regional elections. Many protest leaders did not attend the march and even criticized it, but without offering a constructive alternative.
The Peace March cannot influence voters’ mood, because no elections are planned for next year. Its organizers missed the opportunity on the Single Voting Day on September 14, when people did not rise in protest contrary to the opposition leaders’ hopes. As for the foreign policy stage, the protest leaders have never had any influence there, with the exception of a very narrow corridor of relations with members of foreign secret services, NGOs and the US State Department.
In short, Russian society has not been divided by the Ukrainian crisis, as evidenced by regular public opinion polls on Vladimir Putin’s policy. They show an unprecedentedly high level of support, which points to the absence of serious discord in society.
Considering the limited attendance of the Peace March and that it was clearly held in the interests of the United States, which continues to mount pressure on the Russian authorities, the event can only be given a bad grade. It was indirect proof of the protest leaders’ love for the “State Department’s cookies” and access to the liberal media it grants them.
Alexei Mukhin is President of the Center for Political Information.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.