Khabarovsk, protests against Putin's "colonialism"
Located in the Far East of the Russian Federation the city people have been defending their elected governor for days, accused of attempted murder and other serious crimes. The population stands against central power. In many regions, dissatisfaction with Putin's policy and with the huge resources absorbed by Moscow, which impoverish the peripheries, is growing.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Protests have swamped Khabarovsk, a city in the Russian Far East, over 8,000 km from Moscow and just 30 km from the Chinese province of Heilongjiang.
The city’s citizens are on the streets in thousands (see photo) to protest the arrest of the governor of the region, Sergei Furgal, accused of attempted murder and other serious crimes. His supporters say the case is fabricated for political reasons.
According to Ilja Stakheev, professor of political communication in St. Petersburg, the political reason for the arrest and conflict with central power revolves around the autonomy of governors and mayors, completely canceled by Vladimir Putin at the beginning of his first presidential term (2000 -2004), to re-establish what he calls the "pinnacle of power".
In 2012, with the end of the presidency of Dmitrij Medvedev, the elective nature of the regional governors had been restored, considering the uniformity of the various levels of political power at the federal level now acquired. In recent years, however, in some regional elections the people's dissatisfactions with Putin's politics, during the economic recession, have been reflected; Furgal was elected in 2018 for these reasons.
The same thing happened in the Siberian region of Irkutsk, and in some areas of central Russia, such as Vladimir and Nizhny Novgorod, where non-Putin governors and mayors have been elected. The discontent risks spreading like wildfire, strengthening anti-system sentiments in the street opposition, but also in parties so far loyal to Putin, such as the communists and liberal-nationalists.
Khabarovsk residents themselves do not defend Furgal because they are convinced of his honesty, but because "you cannot an elected representative with impunity" and to "defend their freedom of choice", as Stakheev argues.
All this can be defined as a protest against "Muscovite colonialism", which is accentuated in this convulsive phase of social life, between the contradictory measures against the pandemic and the constitutional changes that strengthen central power.
Nor is it a yearning for federal democracy against centralized authoritarianism, although Furgal had formed the first real "coalition government" on the Russian political scene.
The question is primarily economic, because Russia's resources are redistributed in a centripetal movement, and Moscow swallows huge quantities compared to what is assigned to the suburbs. And this is all the more perceived in the most distant regions, such as the Far East of Khabarovsk, where on the other hand there is also a phenomenon of "external colonization" by Chinese immigration.
One of the reasons for popular support for Furgal is its defense of the interests of the Russian inhabitants of the region.
Central powers respond with increasingly harsh repressions (in Khabarovsk so far only one protester has been arrested), or attempt to arrive at compromise solutions. The accusations against Furgal could be mitigated, allowing him to remain in his place, or hold new elections trying to put a less confrontational figure in his place.
In any case, as the journalist Konstantin Bubon notes, the Khabarovsk protests have highlighted "the absence of a common information space" for the whole Federation. National televisions try in every way to obscure the news from the region, but the marches "have surprisingly imposed the Far East as an object of common interest", which had almost never happened; many Muscovites, or Russians from central Russia, struggle to indicate Khabarovsk's position on the map. The protests of recent days could shine many lights on the so-called "deep Russia".