April 28, 2019

Commentary for POLITICO.EU

Putin’s garbage challenge

Protests over open-air landfills have broken out across Russia.

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The “garbage protests,” as they have been dubbed by Russian media, are indicative of a major challenge for the Kremlin — identifying potential hotspots for discontent and resolving conflicts when they emerge — said Tatiana Stanovaya, a commentator for the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.

In many cases, she said, regional governors are wary of entering into dialogue with protesters because they are afraid of being seen as weak, or even sympathizing with opposition groups, who have been dubbed traitors to Russia by Putin and other Kremlin-linked figures.

“Without a radical change in the approach to governing, there will soon be numerous mass protests in Russia’s regions, some of which will be crushed,” said Stanovaya.

“In essence, Russia is moving toward a crisis of Putin’s model of political governance, which is ceasing to function in the face of the growing alienation of the authorities from society.”