More than two-thirds of Russians think the Kremlin should begin negotiations with the opposition, but only half of them believe it will happen, according to a new poll by independent Levada Center.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents in the new nationwide poll, published on Thursday, urged dialogue, but only 35 percent said they expect President Vladimir Putin to begin talking to his opponents.
Another 45 percent expect Putin to step up the crackdown on opposition activists, in contrast to 32 percent in January, said the poll, available on Levada’s website.
The government increased pressure on its opponents after a mass rally on May 6 in Moscow, which ended in clashes between protesters and riot police. Many opposition activists were detained in the following weeks in the streets of the capital, where they attempted to set up camps, and the federal parliament fast-tracked a bill tightening regulations on public events, which is now to be signed into law by Putin ahead of a new protest rally on June 12.
Seventy percent of the respondents were aware of the May 6 events, and 61 percent knew about the opposition camps that followed – both unusually high awareness figures, Levada said.
About 46 percent of the people polled called the actions of riot police in May – when hundreds of protesters were detained – too harsh, while 34 percent called them “adequate” and 4 percent too soft.
But 51 percent said riot police should not be used to crack down on peaceful protests, compared to 31 percent who think it acceptable.
Seventeen percent approved of the new legislation on public rallies, but another 26 percent said the fines of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,000) that it introduces for protesters are too high.
A further 38 percent believed the law on rallies was the government’s attempt to suppress protests, the report said.
The poll was held in late May and covered 1,600 respondents. It had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.