George Diepenbrock
KU News Service

Russian protests are 'significant,' KU international relations scholar says

Mon, 03/27/2017

LAWRENCE — A wave of rallies and protests on the corruption of Vladimir Putin's government is rare behavior in Russia in recent years and could provide clues into the developing political climate there, said a University of Kansas researcher of Russian politics.

According to news reports, protesters and opposition leaders are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev after the chief architect of the rally, Alexei Navalny, has criticized Medvedev amassing vineyards, yachts and lavish mansions worth more than $1 billion.

Mariya Omelicheva, associate professor of political science, is available to discuss issues surrounding the protests across Russia. Omelicheva's broad research focuses on international relations, security policy, state security and human rights, and Russian foreign policy. She has authored several recent articles on Russian politics and foreign policy.

Q: What do you think has laid groundwork for this type of response right now?

Omelicheva: This is the home-grown type of social mobilization that cannot be pinned down on any foreign instigation. And this is what make these protests so significant and troublesome for the regime. The demonstrations across Russia have been provoked by the leaked information about Prime Minister's Dmitry Medvedev corruption, but they are also in response to the pervasive corruption of the regime.

Q: What is the global significance of these actions?

Omelicheva: The analysts are watching these grassroots developments as well as the Russian government's response to them because they raise a number of red flags. The government has mobilized riot police, but so far there has been no state-sponsored violence against the protesters, quite few of which have been detained. Russia is 11 months away from the presidential elections, and the current context provides a "mirror" of sort of how the elections period will turn out.

Q: What would be key factors to watch for going forward with these developments?

Omelichieva: Whether or not the government accommodates the protesters' demands or responds with violence and more arrests. The other factor is what the fortune of the key government opposition figure — Navalny — will be. The final one is what the consequences will be for Medvedev.

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