Staunton, November 18 – The Duma has been grinding out ever more repressive measures but in doing so, the deputies and their masters have forgotten two things, Dmitry Gudkov says. On the one hand, these new laws only ban actions that don’t threaten the powers that be, forcing people to reach the conclusion that they must use methods that do.
And on the other, such measures which the deputies and the regime’s elites assume are directed only at the population can and will be used by the Kremlin against them as well, the opposition Russian politician says, pointing to the new case against Mikhail Men, a former governor and auditor (rosbalt.ru/posts/2020/11/18/1873676.html).
As a result, in its rush to defend its privileges at a time when its popular support has declined, the authoritarian Putin regime has acted in ways that ultimately are against its interests, that won’t defend it when the chips are down, and that will in fact trigger more opposition not only among the Russian people but among some members of the ruling stratum.
In the last few days, which can be described as “the week of repression and tightening the screws,” Gudkov says, the Duma has extended lifetime immunity from prosecution to Vladimir Putin and taken up a variety of other measures intended to restrict the activities of ordinary Russians.
It has moved to ban standing in line to take part in individual picketing, it has opened the way for banning information distributed online that the powers view as illegal electoral agitation, banned “enlightenment activities” outside of educational institutions, and it has expanded the use of the term “foreign agent,” and is ready to introduce the category, “a foreign agent candidate.”
All this is “simple,” Gudkov says. “Having lost popular support,” the Putin regime “has retreated into a deaf defense,” reflecting its fear of civil society and that society’s demands for change. Indeed, Vyacheslav Volodin has admitted as much: “You don’t want Putin to go out in the streets undefended?” he asked rhetorically.
Three conclusions arise from all this: First, “the government is prohibited only that form of protest which doesn’t threaten it” but has no idea how to protect itself against mass meetings as in Khabarovsk, Shiyes, or Kushtau and doesn’t realize that in restricting small protests, it is driving people to organize large ones.
Second, Gudkov continues, such bans on social activity “will lead to an explosion,” and the more repressive the measures the state imposes and the longer it does so, the greater t his explosion will be. And third, all these repressive measures can be turned on their authors by others in the Putin elite.
Those voting for these restrictions on the Russian people now seem completely oblivious to the fact that they are voting for restrictions on themselves as well.