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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Far More Anti-War Protests Taking Place in Russia than Media Report, Russian Government Data Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Protests against Putin’s war in Ukraine such as those which take the form of laying flowers at Ukraine-linked memorials in Russian cities seldom get any media attention either locally or at the center if there are no detentions — but they are monitored and recorded by Moscow, according to an analysis of leaked Russian government data.

            Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring the media in that country, monitors all protests in the Russian Federation on all topics, protests that seldom get any attention in regional or all-Russian media unless there are detentions.

            And that in turn means that the amount of popular anger about many topics and opposition to Putin’s war in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s awareness of both kinds of opposition is far greater than any surveys of the Russian media, central, regional or local, are in a position to suggest.

            A leak of its data for 116 days during 2022 shows that regardless of the subject and the number of people involved, Moscow monitors and then evaluates all protests in the country. Two Important Stories journalists, Irina Dolinina and Polina Uzhvak, analyze this official monitoring (storage.googleapis.com/istories/stories/2023/03/22/protesty-v-rossii/index.html).

            Protests against the war took place more often in Moscow and St. Petersburg, in regional centers and in Siberia in particular. In Ulan-Ude, Sochi, Novorossiisk, and Glazov in Udmurtia, the only protests that to place during the period covered by the leaked document were against the war.

            The data also showed that there were four and a half times more protests against the war during this period than in support of it. Meetings in favor of the war formed only 14 percent of all actions. That means that 86 percent were either against the war or about other subjects where the population was against what officials are doing.

            Russians are taking to the streets to protest almost every day. Most of the demonstrations are small and about local issues and are not even picked up by the local media let along the federal outlets, but Roskomnadzor maintains a file and apparently provides data about this up the line to the Kremlin.

            For the period covered in the materials which have leaked, Khabarovsk had more protests than any other federal subjects (91 days out of 116), twice as many as St. Petersburg and three times more than Moscow and Bashkortostan, the result of demonstrations in support of the Khabarovsk governor the central authorities removed and charged.

            Just under half of all protest actions were by individual pickets, and only one in every five protests involved more than ten people. Many did not lead to detentions or arrests; and in their absence, the media didn’t report them. That has the effect of reinforcing the widespread view that protest is rare because it is both dangerous and ineffective.

2644322 Window on Eurasia — New Series

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