Russia’s Putin Faces Rising Discontent Amid Alexei Navalny Protests

MOSCOW—The protests that swept Russia this weekend in assistance of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny show the problem President Vladimir Putin faces in controlling social discontent forward of parliamentary elections this year.

Saturday’s unsanctioned rallies ended up among the largest in modern many years and saw tens of 1000’s of individuals courageous freezing temperatures, the risk of the pandemic and the possibility of incarceration. Security forces detained much more than 3,five hundred people—the largest amount in at the very least nine many years, in accordance to impartial monitors.

The protests have remaining the Kremlin facing a dilemma: Possibly bow to the stress from the street and undermine its own authority by releasing Mr. Navalny or risk inciting much more backlash and unifying the opposition by maintaining him behind bars.

“There are handful of superior options for Putin,” mentioned Abbas Gallyamov, a Moscow-primarily based political specialist and former speechwriter for Mr. Putin. “It appears to be like Navalny is attacking and the Kremlin is defending.”

Mr. Putin’s approval rankings have swooned in modern many years amid a sluggish economic system and protest action. Observers say the Navalny demonstrations, if sustained, could pose a risk to Mr. Putin’s dominance despite constitutional variations permitted final year that could allow for him to keep in electric power until 2036.