Putin's War at Home

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One element that has been conspicuously absent from the West’s response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is support for democracy in Russia.

It’s not that Vladimir Putin has eased up on the opposition and civil society. Even while he has seized Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine, Russia’s democratic opposition parties have faced prohibitive barriers to participating in and contesting elections, human rights organizations have faced branding as foreign agents, and prominent democracy activists and ordinary citizens have been sent to prison on invented charges.

Many Russians understand the war as a distraction from Putin’s authoritarian rule at home. That is the message of Russian students who recently issued a video apology to their Ukrainian counterparts. “We condemn the war,” they say in a video translated by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “Whoever this war was beneficial for, it will never be beneficial for the people of Ukraine and Russia, and we must do everything together to stop it.”

Opposition to the war, and free elections, are top items on the agenda of a protest march planned for on March 1st. Its organizers hope to bring out the largest crowds since 2011, when unexpectedly large protests erupted after Putin arranged to return to the presidency and also staged fraudulent Duma elections.

- The remainder of this post may be read at Ellen Bork's blog at World Affairs Journal, Democracy Road

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