Can Khabarovsk Bring down Putin?

In far Khabarovsk, seven time zones away from Moscow, people protest against authorities of Moscow and use not the most pleasant words to describe the president. Thus, we should ask a question whether protestors of Khabarovsk…

In far Khabarovsk, seven time zones away from Moscow, people protest against authorities of Moscow and use not the most pleasant words to describe the president. Thus, we should ask a question whether protestors of Khabarovsk can bring down Putin? 
The first direct answer would be no.
No, for different reasons. Khabarovsk is far from Moscow and no uprising, even it was the Uprising of Stepan Razin or Pugachov’s Rebellion, would not reach Moscow so easily. Secondly, in order to turn somebody down, one should have an alternative authority, which is not the case in Khabarovsk. Thirdly, one should have a desire to turn him down and it is also absent. Actually it is asking the authority to act in a more decent manner, however actually there is no need to replace it.
Let‘s start from the very beginning.
Do dictators allow protests?
Russians are aware that political protestors are undesired and even punished. Putin’s opponents have already experienced this. However, some domestic protests can take place. Russians protest here and there against not picked up garbage, intolerably brown water from the tap and not running buses. Dictators usually use such protests for increasing their popularity, because then they sack, punish and reprove somebody.
When Putin faced Khabarovsk problem, nobody took it seriously that it might determine his destiny. This problem is seven time zones away and it slightly interferes with quiet Putin’s sleep.
The things with Khabarovsk are slightly atypical – not completely political, however far from domestic. 
Respectable observers wrote that it was a real pain in the neck to the Head of Russia, but just that. Here we can remember Mikhail Bulgakov, whose text said that on the day when Pontius Pilate handed over Jesus to the crowd, a Roman protégé had a terrible headache and he simply was thinking ‘take him as soon as you can and do something…’.    
Hence, we can see some democracy in Russia – local electors elected not a man of Putin as their governor, but a local man. Moscow recognized the election results (unlikely to Minsk!), however it found a way to remove the governor Sergei Furgal from the post by imputing purportedly ‘criminal past’ on him. The governor was detained and flown to Moscow. Simple as that. 
People got really furious. The crisis – massive meetings on streets have been taking place for months and will continue, since neither party wants to give in to the other party. They demand to return their favourite governor. This seems as if a minor domestic problem, however it is also political.
Sergei Furgal is not some kind of a revolutionary ideal or a sample of political transparency. Nowadays not only ideals become heroes (let’s remember a black man with a very ‘complicated’ past, who gave a rise to the global racial neurosis). Sergei Furgal came to politics from a rather shadow business. He is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky political party, the fame of which as we all know is more than questionable. This political party is de facto the opposition from Putin’s grace, thus the governor of Khabarovsk was not a fierce critic of the system. Maybe he just wanted to become a governor and … became. By the way, he was a member of the Board of Khabarovsk region and deputy of the Russian Duma. As a follower of Zhirinovsky. People say that his election to the post of the governor was not the expression of love to the Liberal Democratic Party but rather the expression of hatred for Moscow.   
Currently Sergei Furgal is charged with participation in murder of businessmen 15 years ago. However, even if this was the case, the procedure of prosecution is weird. Why was the suspect flown to Moscow urgently but not examined in flagrante delicto? Another question – why particularly now? Haven’t they had suspicious then when this person was taking part in meetings in Duma and was awarded for excellent work in the area of legislation.
In the events of Khabarovsk we can see more odd things that are atypical to the countries of strict authoritarian way of ruling. Authorities (both local and Moscow) do not give public reports about protests; however they behave rather gently with their participants – with no intrusion of ‘strict fist’. Just a few participants were arrested. They arrested namely those, who wanted to make these protests political, that is Alexei Navalny followers, who actually actively contributed to organization of protests. Of course, any anti-Putin campaign is useful.  
After many years of cooperation with Putin’s opponents I got a picture that we can separate two groups of their beliefs. Some think that present Russia is irreparable, thus it needs to be destroyed and reformed fundamentally. Others say that Russia can be repaired, living according to its present laws and customs.    
Khabarovsk protestors actually do not want to reform Russia fundamentally. They do not want to establish some Far East Russia or become a protectorate of China. However, they have their wishes. Their wishes are not so pleasant to Moscow. 
Why does Moscow behave rather gentle in this case? Maybe it does not know how to behave or has a tricky plan or simply fears?
In a geopolitical point of view Khabarovsk is an important city with over half million population at the border of China. Relations with China are mixed, cross-border business is flourishing, however there are criminal issues alongside the benefit. There are some issues of state security. Moscow has to admit that it does not have full control over the situation seven time zones away. Local police and security services are becoming more and more ‘local’ – they know local geopolitical situation but not always listen to requests of those, who are far away. It is no secret that there everything is interrelated to shadow. Emissaries of Moscow understand that it is better to have no conflicts with locals and sometimes even give them a chance to enjoy self-administration. Thus, Khabarovsk cannot be pacified by force. There should be a way to agree with them. It would be good if Moscow could manage this without the above-mentioned Sergei Furgal. And without Alexei Navalany’ followers.
However, in recent days the factor of Belarus arose. Protestors communicate. The slogan – we demand truth and fair authorities started joining protestors, which is rather interesting. Protestors wish each other luck.   
Russia will not collapse just because of that, but if the number of such Khabarovsk increase, it will not be good. Some time ago Zbigniew Brzerinski told that one of the problems of this country was that Russia was way too big to be governed like a centralized country. Now that’s how it is governed. Russia should become smaller for the sake of its welfare. However, if it is no longer centralized, it will simply be not the Russia that the whole world knows for three hundred years. It will be different. But maybe happier?  
P.S. We have just got some news that the most famous Vladimir Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny was hospitalized on his way from Siberia to Tomsk. Rumours say there were attempts to poison him. Another piece of news in Russia.
Egidijus Vareikis

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