Russia accused Kremlin of using World Cup to bury bad news

Vastavam web: Opposition politicians accused the Kremlin of using Russia’s World Cup as a cover to avoid dissent while it pushes through unpopular measures, while all eyes are on the country’s sporting successes and a de facto ban in place on political protests.Since the start of the tournament, plans have been set in motion to raise the retirement age, increase value-added tax and lower the threshold for a tax on purchases from foreign online retailers. The retirement age hike is particularly unpopular: a petition against it has drawn 2.3 million signatures online.

Moscow authorities, citing the decree, refused permission on Thursday for three separate pension reform protests, which were planned by political opposition movements for the first week of July.“When the entire country is focused on a major sporting event, it’s the best time to quietly push through measures which on any other day would be the main political news of the moment,” Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician and candidate for the position of Mayor of Moscow, told Reuters.

“Our president started out in the security services, and so unpopular decisions are taken in the style of covert ops,” Yashin said, adding that the decree on public gatherings set a dangerous precedent and was in his view unconstitutional.Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, released from prison just over a week ago after a 30-day sentence for holding an unsanctioned protest last month, has lodged official requests to hold demonstrations on July 1 in 20 Russian cities that are not hosting World Cup matches.

So far, four have been accepted, eight will take place in special zones where public gatherings do not require approval, and three have been rejected, Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh told Reuters.“It’s convenient to make unpopular decisions on the back of a surge of popular enthusiasm, when it seems that people will pay less attention,” Yarmysh said. “Moreover, it would appear as if the ban on protests would suppress any expressions of popular discontent.”