Staunton, February 9 – It is bad enough when Russian government agencies including the police and the security services repress their populations; it is even worse when the government succeeds in mobilizing members of the population, including some of the most vicious ones, to attack and even kill the regime’s opponents.
The reason that the latter is worse is that such an approach allows the Kremlin to avoid responsibility for what it is doing, in this case conducting “a hybrid war” against its own people just as it did earlier by using forces without insignia in Ukraine and is increasingly doing using mercenaries in the Donbass and Syria.
Still worse, these forces often act without even the minimum constraints that Russian bureaucracies sometimes feel compelled to maintain and thus behave more violently and viciously against their targets than do even the violent and vicious Russian police, Russian FSB, and other Russian siloviki organizations.
It is terribly important that people of good will both in Russia and in the West recognize Putin has now brought his “hybrid war” home; and for that, such people can be grateful for a new commentary by Danila Aleksandrov who notes that “Hybrid War is Being Conducted Not Only with Neighboring Countries” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A7D4B7FCA603).
“On this day, two years ago,” the commentator says, he was attacked by persons unknown after he had received threats of various kinds. “This was not the first and not the last attack in Petersburg connected with politics.” But then it appeared to be about intimidating people. Now it involves serious physical injury and even death.
The authorities have put out lists of people they don’t approve of, and those who support them have both used those lists to identify targets, sometimes adding their own enemies as well. The latest in this sad series, one that shows that Putin’s “hybrid war” has come back to Russia occurred a week ago when persons unknown tried to kill rights activist Dinar Idrisov.
Aleksandrov is not the only one to report on this phenomenon, and it is far from being limited to St. Petersburg. The Slavic Centre for Law and Justice reports that the current persecution of Baptist groups involves just as was the case in Soviet times “volunteers” and state institutions (sclj.ru/news/detail.php?SECTION_ID=487&ELEMENT_ID=7767).
And earlier this week, Radio Svoboda reports, members of the pro-Kremlin SERB Russian nationalist group showed up at a Navalny office alongside police to make the regime’s show of force even more intimidating (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3368707.html). Meanwhile, the SOVA human rights site has documented other cases as well.
The Kremlin used the instruments of “hybrid war” in Ukraine to confuse and slow the reaction of the world to Putin’s actions there. It is even more important that he not be allowed to use the same tactic against his own people because that will open the way to an even more brutal dictatorship just as the Nazi’s “bully boys” did in German cities in the early 1930s.