Thursday

20th Jan 2022

Russian protest inspired by EU neighbours

  • Central Kaliningrad: "Our region is the most European in the whole [Russian] federation," Mr Doroshok said (Photo: wtf)

The leader of the largest anti-government protest in Russia for almost a decade has said that his region's proximity to EU countries is producing an appetite for political change.

Between 7,000 and 12,000 people held a rally in Kaliningrad on Saturday (30 January), in a demonstration that had initially targeted local tax hikes but which ended in calls for more democracy and for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to resign.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We don't get our knowledge about the world here from state television, like people in provincial Russia, but from what we see when we visit our neighbours," the protest organiser, Maksim Doroshok, told Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

"We see that in neighbouring Poland, where they brought in reforms, where there is democracy, it's cheaper, people earn more, civic bodies function better. Why should we be any worse? Our region is the most European in the whole [Russian] federation because we know Europe and we know how to fight for our rights."

Mr Doroshok, a 40-year-old electrician and a senior figure in the Solidarnost (Russian for "Solidarity," named after the Polish Solidarnosc trade union) opposition movement in Kaliningrad, highlighted the parallels between himself and Lech Walesa, a shipyard worker from Gdansk in Poland who in the 1980s led Solidarnosc in a struggle against his country's Communist regime.

"There is a different spirit at rule here. There is a wind blowing from your Gdansk," he told the Polish paper.

The weekend protest in the Kalinigrad exclave, a piece of Russian territory surrounded by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, was the largest anti-government demonstration in the country since 2001.

The province, which is home to around 1 million people and a number of military facilities, has been touted by Moscow as a model for potential EU-Russia integration, but suffers from poor living standards and high levels of tuberculosis and HIV.

Mr Putin in 2005 abolished elections for the post of governor and installed a loyalist - lighting components millionaire Georgy Boos - to run Kaliningrad, amid fears that the region was drifting away from central control.

Small-scale pro-democracy protests also took place across Russia over the weekend, with gaggles of demonstrators in Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostock calling for reforms.

The main rally, in Moscow, saw police detain 100 out of the 300 or so protestors, newswires report, with senior opposition leader, Boris Nemstov, among those put under arrest.

Macron promises strong EU borders

Obligatory detentions, more security-screening, and faster deportations - these are the French EU presidency's migration priorities.

MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'

MEPs will vote on new rules setting out transparency obligations for online players and holding Big Tech giants accountable. But some issues proved to be divisive after EU lawmakers tabled over a hundred amendments on the file.

Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia

Emmanuel Macron also took hits from French political opponents, including the Green party presidential challenger MEP Yannick Jadot in the European Parliament ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in France in April.

Opinion

Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

President Emmanuel Macron's address to the European Parliament championed a bold and ambitious pro-European agenda. There is one problem though - the plans rely on a system of governance that has gridlocked the EU for over a decade.

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

Opinion

Tomorrow MEPs can end EU animal export horror show

On Thursday, MEPs must press for a ban on all live exports outside the EU, and call for overall journey times within the EU to be limited to four hours for poultry and rabbits, and eight hours for other animals.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs call for full-scale election observers in Hungary
  2. Nato membership 'very unlikely' on her watch: Finland's PM
  3. Germany investigates Green leaders' Covid-bonuns
  4. Officials surprised by Macron's call for seperate EU-Russia talks
  5. Commission to withhold EU funds from Poland in mine row
  6. 'Patriotic millionaires' call for wealth tax at virtual Davos
  7. Borders must not be moved by force, Scholz warns
  8. MEPs demand public consultation on gas and nuclear

Column

An EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present

Competition is fierce and getting African leaders' attention is no easy task. US president Joe Biden has his own Africa summit, and Turkey, Japan, Russia and - most importantly - China, also have Africa forums up and running.

Opinion

Tomorrow MEPs can end EU animal export horror show

On Thursday, MEPs must press for a ban on all live exports outside the EU, and call for overall journey times within the EU to be limited to four hours for poultry and rabbits, and eight hours for other animals.

Latest News

  1. Macron promises strong EU borders
  2. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  3. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  4. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers
  5. Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?
  6. Tomorrow MEPs can end EU animal export horror show
  7. An EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present
  8. Metsola becomes youngest EU Parliament president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us