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24 Dec, 2020 08:56

Russians rank Belarus protests as worst political event of 2020, but more tolerant of demonstrations in Khabarovsk, poll reveals

Russians rank Belarus protests as worst political event of 2020, but more tolerant of demonstrations in Khabarovsk, poll reveals

Only a quarter of Russians opposed this year’s Khabarovsk protests, according to a new poll, but half took a dim view of those in Belarus, where a movement led by Western-backed activists is challenging Alexander Lukashenko.

The results are interesting in that they appear to shed light on a Russia wary of violent uprisings, especially those which may lead to negative consequences for their country in the near abroad. However, it appears that a relatively small cohort of Russians takes a dim view of pro-democracy rallies at home.

The survey of 1,609 adults revealed that, of six of the year’s most important political events, the anti-government demonstrations in Belarus were the least popular, with 50 percent of those questioned responding negatively. This reaction was more pronounced in those over 55, with a majority (56 percent) believing them to be bad.

In contrast, Russians reacted much better to protests on their home soil. The demonstrations in Khabarovsk, sparked by the arrest of popular Governor Sergey Furgal, saw emotions tend in a positive direction. Just 26 percent of respondents said these protests were a bad thing, with 36 percent in favor, and 19 percent neutral. Earlier this year, while the demonstrations were still ongoing, a separate opinion poll discovered that 45 percent of Russians supported those marching in the streets.

Furgal’s popularity was also shown in a separate poll this week, conducted by WCIOM, which discovered that he has entered the top 10 for most-liked politicians in the country.

The pollsters also asked Russians whether they supported the adoption of the constitutional amendment allowing long-time President Vladimir Putin to run again in 2024. Compared to other events, the change was much more likely to evoke a response, with just two percent saying they couldn’t answer.

The results revealed that 37 percent of respondents are against the amendment, with 46 percent supporting it, and 16 percent remaining neutral. The response was also split along demographic lines, with cities and younger people more likely to oppose giving Putin the chance for a fifth term.

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Other events seen in a positive light were the sacking of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (59 percent) and well as the appointment of Mikhail Mishustin, Medvedev’s replacement.

The poll was conducted by the Levada Center, in conjunction with Open Media, owned by disgraced 1990s oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Named for its founder, the late Yuri Levada, the Levada Center polling company has often been accused of liberal bias. In 2016, the pollsters were accused of “performing the functions of a foreign agent” by authorities, and the center has admitted to receiving Western funding in the past.

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