Russia Considering $6.7 Billion Social Spending Plan To Temper Unrest

Russian authorities are considering a $6.7 billion social spending plan in order to ease domestic tensions following the arrest of anti-Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, Reuters reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin could unveil the plan ahead of the country’s autumn elections according to two sources within the Kremlin, Reuters reported. One source has said Putin will unveil the spending plan to senior political leaders in the coming weeks, while a spokesman for Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has denied being aware of any such plan.

Rumors of the $6.7 billion social spending package follow weeks of anti-Kremlin protests, which have continued unabated since Navalny’s arrest in Moscow, the Daily Caller reported. Navalny was detained on his return to Russia after recovering from an alleged assassination-by-poisoning attempt in Germany.

Since last week more than 850 demonstrators have been detained by authorities, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.

A video of police officers beating a reporter wearing a reflective yellow vest emerged on the Twitter-sphere last week along with other instances of police beatings in Moscow during mass demonstrations, the DCNF reported.

In addition to beating and arresting anti-Kremlin demonstrators, Russian authorities have reportedly expelled European diplomats from Poland, Germany and Sweden after claiming they had taken part in the protests, the Daily Caller reported.

“We consider this expulsion unjustified and think it is another facet of the things that can be seen in Russia at the moment that are pretty far from the rule of law,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in response to the removal of the diplomats, the Daily Caller reported.

U.S. relations with Russia have also been stressed, resulting in Secretary of State Antony Blinken denouncing Russia’s arrest of Navalny and protestors who have been “wrongfully detained for exercising their rights.”

President Joe Biden requested Putin release Navalny immediately, which has since been denied by Russian authorities. On Feb. 2 Navalny was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for “systematically and repeatedly”  violating probation terms previously established in a 2014 court case, the Daily Caller reported.

Russian authorities have also had to face the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, as unemployment reaches 6% and real incomes adjusted for inflation dropped by 3.5% in 2020, marking the worst economic contraction the country has experienced since 2011, Reuters reported.

Historically, social spending programs have focused on low-income households with small children by offering payments to first-time mothers and families with larger numbers of children, Reuters reported. The proposed target of the $6.7 billion spending plan is unknown at this time.

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