08/14/2019, 08.00
RUSSIA
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Moscow joins Beijing to blame "foreign interference” for protests

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The "walks on the boulevards" continue in Moscow in opposition to the exclusion of opposition candidates in the city’s elections. Next Saturday a rally of 30,000 people is expected. Russia’s Foreign Ministry slams Washington, Western governments and media. Security forces suspect the presence of Islamic State group members. Saint George, Moscow’s symbol, is reinterpreted.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Protests in Moscow against the exclusion of opposition candidates in city elections, are showing no sign of abating. Protests started on 27 July, culminating in a rally of 50,000 last Saturday. Another meeting is scheduled for next Saturday.

Moscow municipal counsellors Elena Filina, Ilya Azar and Andrey Morev have formally applied for a new "walk on the boulevards", certain of the presence of about 30,000 people. However, the Moscow City authorities have denied their request, alleging that the request was “too late", even though the counsellors have the right to apply up to 5 days before the set date.

Fearing new disorders, the authorities are enforcing tighter measures, this despite the apparent indifference of top leaders. In fact, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has said that "the protests have no real political value", whilst President Vladimir Putin is currently riding a motorbike along the roads of annexed Crimea.

Yet, Russian authorities are promoting the idea that ​​"foreign interference" is behind the protests, trying to draw parallel with what is happing in Hong Kong.

In view of this, Russian Foreign Minister spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia has invited China to work together to find evidence of such interference in both countries.

"We see the trade war and Washington’s aggressive economic and financial attitude against Beijing,” she said, adding that Western governments "simply do not like the rapprochement between Russia and China and the enormous progress in the economic and military fields".

Recently, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned US embassy officials in Moscow, because of a tweet about the Moscow protests.

Similar claims have been made against German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, which reported the phrase in Russian ‘Moscow, take to the streets!’ in connection with a rally on 27 July.

Russian security forces have also raised the possibility that the Islamic State group might be involved in order to attract recruits, especially among students and young Russian protesters.

Alexander Bortnikov, director of Russia’s main security service, the Federal Security Service (FSB), expressed such concerns at a meeting of the anti-terrorism committee.

Citing him, Ria-Novosti reports that "emissaries of international terrorist organisations are trying to recruit foreign students studying in Russian universities, and migrants living on the territory of the Russian Federation." For Bortnikov, this concern justifies restrictive measures against public protests.

Meanwhile, protesters have started to look negatively at the symbol of the City of Moscow, Saint George piercing a dragon, as a member of the police suppressing protest by the "lower classes" of the population.

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