Exclusive: Russian Leak Reveals Extent Of Country’s Anti-War Protests That Kremlin Was Hiding
Independent Russian media Vazhnyye Istorii has obtained a major data leak from the top Kremlin information agency that reveals the scale and extent of anti-war protests across the Russian Federation.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian government information agencies have repeatedly published public opinion polls showing that the overwhelming majority of Russians support Vladimir Putin's domestic and foreign policies, especially the war against Ukraine which is officially referred to as the special “military operation to denazify Ukraine and liberate Donbas.”
However, an unprecedented large-scale leak of data from Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal propaganda and surveillance agency, shows that protest movements in 2022 were expanding across much of the Russian Federation.
It turned out that in spite of the Kremlin's propaganda efforts, Russians were rebelling against the war with Ukraine and standing up for their rights.
Protests from St. Petersburg to far east
Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed another law tightening the punishment for "fakes" about the Russian army. Any internet post, public statement, or display of anti-military symbols in Russia can be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
These "fakes" also include simply condemning the brutal actions of conscripts, including the many convicts from the Wagner Group who went to the front straight from prisons at the invitation of Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the mercenary outfit.
Nearly half of all protests in Russia are one-person pickets.
The Russian independent news outlet the Vazhnyye Istorii (Important Stories)analyzed the leaked information accumulated from 2022 and found that Khabarovsk Territory, located in the Russian far east, was the region in Russia with the most protests. There were almost twice as many protests there as in St. Petersburg, which came in second place, and three times as many as in Moscow and Bashkortostan, which tied for third place.
The most frequent protest causes were anti-war sentiments and the fight for ecology. Nearly half of all protests in Russia are one-person pickets. Only one in five protests gathered more than ten people. So-called "flower protests" were notable: Russians in various cities secretly brought flowers to places associated with Ukraine in solidarity with the victims of the missile attack on the apartment building in Dnipro.
According to the Russian advocacy agency OVD-Info, on 305 of the 365 days in 2022, law enforcement officers detained people in various Russian cities for their anti-war stance. Of all public protests in 2022, one in five was anti-war, and they accounted for 70% of all detentions at the rallies.
There are also protests against local and national corruption, in support of political prisoners (Alexei Navalny, Ilya Yashin, Alexei Gorinov, and others), and against Vladimir Putin and his policies.
A protester last March in Moscow
Sergei Fadeichev/TASS via ZUMA
Lack of opposition leader
It is worth noting that the fewest anti-war protests were registered in the border regions of Russia, the only areas affected by military actions. On the contrary, the Bryansk and Kursk regions, close to the border with Ukraine, had the most activities supporting the war. Local activists and representatives of the communist and liberal-democratic parties of Russia are among the organizers of the protests.
Unfortunately, anti-war (and other anti-Kremlin) actions in Russia cannot grow into a large-scale phenomenon since no opposition leader can lead the people.
"A nationwide action needs an organizer," says Denis Volkov, director of the Levada Center, a Moscow-based polling and research institute. "Otherwise, protests can occur in many places but not merge into one big action. For example, if the 2018 protests against pension reform had had an organizer, the actions would have been completely different in scale."
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