Kiev is putting Moscow to shame, said Yulia Latynina. Even after riot police beat up protesters last week, 1 million Ukrainians took to the squares to protest their president’s foreign policy. By contrast, Moscow, a city four times as large, could only muster 100,000 people at the peak of the December 2011 protests against fraudulent elections. What makes us different from the Ukrainians?
In a word, oil. Revenue from oil oozes through Moscow. It gushes at the top, assuring that there are “no empty tables at expensive restaurants” in the city. It pays for “the thousands of personal chauffeurs who drive government officials.” It even trickles down to pensioners, who perceive it as a personal gift from Putin, the stern yet benevolent father to the nation. “The paradox is that the smaller the handout that those at the bottom receive, the greater their gratitude.” Muscovites, even poor ones, won’t demonstrate against Putin. Ukraine, by contrast, has no oil, and its people don’t feel “indebted to their leaders.” For them, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “is not an alpha male like Putin, bequeathing pensions and food packages from on high.” That’s why residents of Kiev stand up to their president, while Muscovites meekly submit.