Saturday, February 20, 2016

Moscow’s Finding that Piontkovsky’s Essay is Extremist May Block Opposition from Participating in Upcoming Elections

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 19 – Igor Yakovenko says that the decision of Russian prosecutors concerning a recent article by Andrey Piontkovsky could have far-reaching consequences, quite possibly casting doubt on the participation of the democratic opposition in the upcoming Duma and presidential elections.

            In a commentary in “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” he reports that prosecutors have concluded that Piontkovsky’s article, “A Bomb Ready to Go Off,” contains several statements and arguments which fall under official understandings of Russia’s anti-extremism legislation (

                First, by suggesting that Russians consider the possible separation of Chechnya from Russia, Piontkovsky, the prosecutors say, is advancing an argument which represents “a threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.”

            Second, Yakovenko continues, “the staff of the procuracy has discovered in [the Russian commentator’s text] the denigration of the dignity” of people of different nationalities. And third, these officials believe they sense words and arguments that threaten to “exacerbate” hatred and hostility among peoples.

                The procuracy has transferred these materials to the FSB; and  Piontkovsky has now left Russia.  But “besides [his] fate,” Yakovenko says, “this episode could have an essential impact on the upcoming elections” by “making impossible the participation in [them] of those who support democratic and liberal views and recognize international law.”

            “In the light of this latest decision of the Procuracy General, now any demand to return Crimea to Ukraine, even any proposal to discuss this issue at an international conference or to subject this question to another referendum will be qualified as an infringement on the territorial integrity of Russia and that means as extremism,” Yakovenko continues.

            Indeed, it is now possible that even referring to the UN resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine adopted on March 27, 2014 will be enough to bring charges of extremism; and “it is possible that the list of international documents which can thus be classified as extremism will grow longer in the near future.”

            That list could even grow to include, the Moscow commentator says, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and other international accords and agreements to which Russia itself is a signatory.

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