Hard on the heels of Russia’s recent regional elections, which provided President Putin the assurance he needed his power was secure, he did what autocrats are wont to do in such a circumstance – he went a step further. He took another step toward squelching completely his opposition.
Russian authorities yesterday arrested Sergei Udaltsov, one of the best known figures in the anti-Putin protest movement. Udaltsov, unlike other protest leaders, is a radical leftist. So the government concluded it was safe – it did not risk widespread public opposition – to charge Udaltsov with threatening to organize mass riots and even to seize power. (The more serious charge of terrorism might yet follow.).
My intention is not to praise Utaltsov but to blame Putin. He is increasingly emboldened – increasingly ready, willing, and able to take on and stamp out anyone who opposes him. (He also just sacked one of his own ministers, who had dared publicly to criticize him.) Unless his followers speak up and out, this is one leader who will not hesitate to do what he feels he must – tighten his grip on power.