Saturday

21st Jan 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room

The commission wants to give the power to member states to reject EU-approved genetically modified organisms, but the Maltese presidency is unlikely to approach the issue any time soon.

New EU parliament coalitions get in shape

Social-democrats and their allies scored a major win on Thursday with the adoption of a report on social rights. But questions remain on the parliament's power balance after the end of the left-right grand coalition.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey