Spontaneous demonstrations of pensioners in Russia is the beginning of the process of destabilization of society at large
In the course of the last two weeks pensioners, war veterans have been protesting the law enacted on Jan.1, 2005. The law substituting welfare benefits (i.e. public transportation and free medications) with cash has turned majority of already poor Russian pensioners into paupers. Large-scale protests bestowed fear upon the governing elite; several hotheads even spotted a phantom of the “orange revolution” in Russia, the one we've been threatened by for two months already.
Russia's Public Opinion Fund conducted a survey shortly before the New Year's. The survey concerned the subject of possible imitation of the Ukrainian situation in Russia.
According to the survey, Russians (45%) are more inclined to believe that the Ukrainian crisis is not likely to occur in Russia. 36% however do not rule out the possibility of it happening here. At the same time, 50% of the respondents allow for major public protests not connected with the elections; whereas third (32%) of people considers that it would be impossible.
So what could possibly make Russians flood the streets to protest?
According to 37 percent of the respondents, it’s low living standards. “Once poverty becomes unbearable,” the people could start protesting immediately. 16% believe that negative reaction of those who had lost their benefits as a result of the new law could serve as a good-enough excuse to give rise to a massive wave of protests across the nation.
9% of respondents believe that public protests could take place as a result of an economic crisis, bank crisis, increase of inflation. 3% of respondents that the situation similar to the one in Ukraine could be triggered by the political problems, for instance when the president makes a serious mistake…or on the contrary, in case someone encroach upon Putin.
But let's leave aside the subject of amendments to the Constitution, re-elections for the third term and so on. All of it is still too far away. All possible moves will be made no sooner than 2006, if such will be made at all.
Today's turbulent days could be described in the following way: Russians have simply lost all their patience! People are flooding the streets, halt traffic. The protestors are those whose life used to be dependent on welfare. For them cash substitute cannot possibly cover the actual expenses.
“Authorities have made a serious mistake attempting to aid Russian people to get used to the new law at a time when it had already stirred major upheaval,” stated assistant general manager at the Center of political technologies Boris Makarenko in his interview to RBC daily. “It's hard to imagine that today's rapid measures are capable of relieving tensions within the society since those at power had demonstrated total lack of competence as far as social work is concerned.” Even in case the government will settle the matter with transportation benefits, experts prophesize that should similar problematic arise, people will no longer hesitate to bloc the streets and protest.
The situation could not go unnoticed. Russian president himself had to interfere. During yesterday’s parliament meeting President Vladimir Putin stated that the decision to substitute benefits with cash is well-founded. However, authorities failed to realize them to the fullest. “Motives of the State Duma and the government are quite clear,” stated the president during the first in 2005 conference with members of the cabinet. “The main question concerns how they will be put to practice. Neither the government nor regions have fully accomplished what I have already mentioned earlier: to refrain from worsening present situation of those in need of state’s welfare.” “These issues haven’t been thought out thoroughly enough; but the [legitimate] solution exists,” added Putin.
At this point however, the most interesting fact is what the actual outcome will be. The opposition asks for blood; otherwise people just wouldn’t calm down.
KPRF (Russia's Communist party) intends to raise an issue regarding resignation of Fradkov’s cabinet. “We will need certain time to collect 90 signatures. We plan to start working on this as early as tomorrow,” declared Ivan Melnikov.
According to him, communists have been watching the situation very closely. Melnikov has noted that KPRF supports peoples’ claims concerning fulfillment of their socio-economic rights. Communists consider that the “Unified Russia” political party to blame for the social upheaval these days. “All of them [‘Unified Russia” along with the government itself] have to be held responsible for what happened,” stated Melnikov.
LDPR and “Rodina” in turn support KPRF’s initiative to introduce a vote of no confidence to the Russian government. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the political party, accused the State in lies.
As for Vladimir Putin himself, he showered oppositional parties with criticism: “…the government nowadays has to be ready for criticism, left and right alike, because these exact parties participated at the time have been creating the oligarch system in Russia thus allowing for the national treasures to be embezzled on one side, and on the other hand, they've been making such popular and yet absolutely unfeasible decisions."