Vladimir Putin vil knuse enhver antydning til en Maidan-revolusjon på hjemmebane, men han er på kollisjonskurs med en ny middelklasse som ikke liker de hardhendte metodene, skriver Vladimir Kara-Murza på sin blogg i worldsaffairsjournal.org.

With Russia’s educated urban middle-classes, the backbone of the 2011-2012 street protests—a warning sign to Putin’s Kremlin if ever there was one—increasingly alienated from a backward, corrupt, and repressive regime, a wise course of action would have been to meet some of the opposition’s demands (such as holding free elections and releasing political prisoners) and allow for a gradual political transition.

Instead, the Kremlin is choosing the route of crackdown. Earlier this week, a Moscow court handed harsh prison sentences (ranging from two to four years) toa group of opposition activists whose only “crime” was to rally against Putin’s inauguration. A peaceful street demonstration in downtown Moscow in protest at this verdict was brutally broken up by the OMON special police forces, with hundreds of people arrested and taken to police stations. Several opposition leaders, including Alexei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov, were sentenced to administrative jail terms for literally nothing (they were standing on Tverskaya Street talking to other protesters). Nemtsov, a member of the Yaroslavl regional parliament, has been jailed for ten days in direct violation of a Russian federal law that limits the ability to arrest elected lawmakers. Meanwhile, the Kremlin-controlled Moscow legislature is discussing a total ban on street rallies in the center of the Russian capital.