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The costs of the anti-Putin protests

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David Brancaccio: In Moscow over the weekend, ten of thousands of demonstrators braved Arctic temperatures to attend competing rallies – one in favor, the other against – Prime Minister Vladmir Putin’s campaign to regain the presidency of Russia.

As Peter van Dyk reports, the government’s impact on Russia’s economy was a central theme.

Peter van Dyk: For many of the protesters, this weekend’s rally came down to one key issue.

Three Protestors: Corruption. Corruptsia. Corruption.

van Dyk: Forty-year-old Valentin Panko says corruption a real problem for businessmen dealing with authorities. Officials often ask for bribes for even the most mundane permits.

Panko: All businessmen, when they contact with our state, all of them feel this.

van Dyk: That endemic corruption is a big reason why these people are demanding fair elections. They believe the last December’s parliamentary elections were fixed, and feel ignored by the authorities. Dmitry Marushenko is a software programmer.

Marushenko: There is lots of problems that are because of corruption and I think if we will stop corruption in our country lots of problems will be gone.

van Dyk: These mostly young, well-off and well-educated protesters don’t want a revolution. And many of the changes they want could be good for business. Lev Snykov was one of 50 or so investment bankers who met with protest leader Alexei Navalny last week. He welcomes a little political instability.

Snykov: The global community took it very negatively, which would probably be justified in every western democracy, but in the Russian situation that should be the other way round, it is actually a sign of a positive change.

van Dyk: The Kremlin is already making changes, and the protesters are encouraged. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will almost undoubtedly be the next president, but the protesters hope he will be a different president.

In Moscow, I’m Peter van Dyk for Marketplace

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