The Russian authorities have announced a string of measures which would weaken the organizational capacity of the oppositional movements that managed to mobilise tens of thousands following the engineered parliamentary elections in December. Heavy fines could be imposed on organisers as well as participants of unauthorized protests, while websites can get blocked if their content is considered harmful. These newest laws put Russia further on the slippery slope to authoritarianism.

Impact on country risk

Though the mass street protests that flooded the streets of Moscow have abated, the underlying current of disgruntled middle class citizens has not, as the Kremlin proves incapable to deal with dissent and demands for real political involvement, corruption fighting and ending lawlessness. Instead of taking protestors’ demands to heart, Moscow has opted to tighten its grip on social media, a sphere that – contrary to television – remained so far beyond censorship by the authorities and facilitated the organisation and coordination of the mass protests. While discouraging citizens from attending rallies and arresting their leaders may avoid fresh anti-regime demonstrations, this strategy is clearly counter-productive in the long-run. Furthermore, while he was easily re-elected, President Putin’s support is largely passive, based on a lack of alternatives and on the backing from elderly and state-employed voters, who only support his system as long as money keeps flowing in their direction, an expensive strategy which implies a dangerous gamble on elevated commodity prices.

Analyst: The Risk Management Team, p.dellafaille@credendogroup.com