Top U.S. Lawmaker Sees Influence Of Arab Spring In Russian Protests

world | Dec 13, 2011 | By RFE/RL 

WASHINGTON -- The top Republican lawmaker on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the protests taking place in Russia against the ruling power in the Kremlin have been influenced by the Arab Spring and online social-media networks.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Senator Richard Lugar (Indiana) said widespread media and online coverage of other popular uprisings this year had helped spark the unprecedented mass demonstrations by Russians, who are unhappy with what observers say was a rigged parliamentary vote on December 4.

"I think it's important that the world understands that we all see each other's elections now," Lugar said. "We see each other's affairs. You could raise the same question: Why the Arab Spring this year? In part it's because of social media and the interconnectedness of coverage. In the old days, perhaps, people had no idea what was going on in other countries. The Russians clearly do."

Lugar also told RFE/RL that he did not see the Russian protests as posing a direct threat to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is still expected to regain the presidency in March.

But he said he believed that the ordinary Russians who have turned out have made it clear that they want to see greater electoral accountability before the vote.

The senator made the comments on the sidelines of an event in Washington to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which has deactivated thousands of nuclear warheads across the former Soviet Union.

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