OpinionSociety

Russian Repression

Kremlin Russia

On 1 July 2020, Putin introduced a new time system for Russia. He began the “chronicle of the new time” with the “new” year 1937. Having reset presidential term limits to zero, the now “lifelong” leader began to completely eradicate  all opposition with renewed vigour. Anywhere, anyone, by any means. Pulling up by the roots.

A while back, Andrei Pivovarov, former executive director of Open Russia, was detained on a plane on his way to Warsaw. According to Putin’s henchmen, Pivovarov harmed the constitutional order, defence and security of Russia by Facebook posts about the support for registered candidates. It seems that the laurels of the “top air pirate” nag at Putin. Therefore, Pivovarov was detained almost on take-off.

The next morning, police raided the apartment of opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov, as well as eight other apartments associated with the Gudkov family. Dmitry himself was taken for questioning as a witness in the case of non-payment of the debt for renting the premises in 2015-2017. In course of questioning, he was requalified from a witness to a suspect. Gudkov is charged with property damage by deception or abuse of trust. He faces up to five years in prison under Paragraph B of Part 2 of Article 165 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

In 2011-2016, Gudkov was a member of the State Duma of the VI convocation. He was one of the four lawmakers who did not vote for the law on the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation, for which he was later expelled from A Just Russia. In 2019, Gudkov was one of the ineligible independent candidates running for the Moscow City Council. As Gennady Gudkov, a former member of the Russian State Duma and one of the leaders of the Russian opposition, said: “First, they had done with Navalny, then with Platoshkin and Galyamina, today – with Open Russia and Pivovarov, now – with my son, Dmitry Gudkov and our whole family…” Law enforcement officers also visited Alexander Solovyov, former head of the Open Russia movement (organisation declared undesirable in Russia), who was an aide to the politician, and chief of Gudkov’s staff Vitaly Venidiktov.

As well-known politician Vladimir Ryzhkov said on the air of the Echo of Moscow radio station, “We see the country rushing down from an authoritarian state to an open dictatorship. When any person pointed at by the security forces can be searched, their apartment can be broken into, their children can be intimidated, then this person can be detained for many hours and interrogated on an absolutely trumped-up pretext, without any grounds. In the case of the Gudkov family, it is five-year-old rent of a basement. There is some debt left on this rent. That is absolute phantasmagoria. This is the competence of the lowest level arbitration court, which provides for a fine, not institution of a criminal case.”

In his opinion, the criminal case against Gudkov “testifies to the growing wave of open, absolutely bold political repression in the country.” “This is unacceptable for Russia in the 21st century – a state which still has the Constitution and the principles of the rule of law are still being proclaimed.”

Dozens of activists across the country “blocked the roads” without leaving home at all. “Sanitary and epidemiological norms were violated” by those wearing face masks in the open air, while people were packed at the Luzhniki stadium stands elbow to elbow. And a six-year prison term to Darya Polyudova for two posts on the VKontakte social network… Unfortunately, there are many such examples! And their number increases every day.

Conclusions

It seems that the end of “political work” the Putin regime has been conducting for many years is looming – restrictions, bans, intimidation, searches, breaking open doors, fines, seizing businesses, discrimination in voting and other rights, illegal arrests, showy trials, abductions, beatings, poisonings, murders …

Undoubtedly, in the near future, Russia will face increased pressure on “foreign agents;”an expanded list of “undesirable organisations;” artificial slowdown of Internet resources up to blockage of not yet banned sites such as Radio Liberty or BBC; new, high-profile cases; and lawsuits against dissidents.

But this is not quite 1937. This is the day before. The real terror of 1937 will begin when they “come” to ordinary citizens who have never really participated in anything. And then the tragedy will happen again.

The history moves in a spiral again…

Yuri Fedorenko, analyst, public relations expert

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