Staunton, May 26 – In the last three weeks, Vladimir Putin has launched an unprecedented attack on dissent in Russia in part to take revenge against Aleksey Navalny for spoiling Putin’s inaugural and in part to block any protests against the Kremlin leader during the upcoming World Cup, Lyubov Sobol of the Foundation for the Struggle with Corruption says.
The lawyer activist says that she does not remember a crackdown against dissent of the size and scope of the one going on now, a crackdown that gives the lie to Putin’s recent statement about the need for more openness, tolerance of dissent, and freedom in Russian society (ehorussia.com/new/node/16344).
“It seems to me,” she tells Danila Galperovich of Ekho Russia, that Putin is acting to take revenge against those he feels spoiled his “personal holiday,” the inauguration, as well as to ensure that no Russian opposition figure will be in a position to spoil the World Cup competition in which Putin has placed so much importance.
Sobol says that “it is difficult to say how serious this campaign is and what will happen next.” As a result, “we are prepared for everything. After all, we live in Russia, and we do not have ‘any rose-colored glasses.’”
Further, she says, “we understand that the less stable Putin’s regime becomes and the more people go out into the streets and raise correct and uncomfortable questions of the authorities, the stronger the powers will resist and attempt in some way to take their revenge on people” who act in ways they view as threatening. “We are ready for this” too.
Russia’s dissidents now have no confidence in the country’s judicial system. Its courts do not have much in common with real courts; and therefore, they place their homes in the European Court of Human Rights to which they will appeal after all their options inside Russia are exhausted.
But at the same time, they would appreciate the support that Soviet-era dissidents received from Western governments. Asked about this by Galperovich, Sobol says that she and her colleagues would be glad to receive such support but that it is “a difficult question” as to whether it will be forthcoming.
The West should reflect on the fact, she suggests, that “in fact little restrains the current powers that be [in Moscow] from moving toward even more serious pressure and more serious repressions. Therefore, any campaign which would insist on human rights, naturally would very much help.”