Saturday, July 14, 2018

… And Then the Kremlin and Its Supporters Came After the Invalids

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 13 – Russians have been infuriated by the Kremlin’s plan to raise the retirement age, and media both in their country and abroad have fastened on their protests.  But a second move against another group has attracted less attention, although it too appears designed to reduce the number of people in that country and the burden they put on the state.

            Under cover of the noise generated by its hosting of the World Cup, Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko says, the Russian government has launched a full-scale attack on people with disabilities, taking actions against them that will beyond doubt lead to the increased suffering and deaths of many of them (

            Yesterday, the Russian authorities included in its list of “foreign agents,” the Chelyabinsk regional movement Together which helps diabetics by providing victims of that disease with direct assistance when possible and helping them navigate the often complicated government channels to get the aid even Russian law promises.

            Now that Together has been listed as a foreign agent, the organization will face obstacles to its own existence and will be far less able to help those who otherwise would not get any assistance at all, Yakovenko says.  Just how far the Russian powers that be may be prepared to go is suggested by its moves against another group dedicated to helping diabetics.

                After a Saratov group dedicated to helping diabetics was declared a foreign agent, the local courts imposed a fine on the organization of 300,000 rubles (5,000 US dollars); and later, a court fined the former head of “this criminal organization, Yekaterina Rogatkina,” an additional 50,000 rubles (800 US dollars), both huge fines for such groups and individuals.

            The picture of this Kremlin campaign against groups which are only trying to help people in dire straights, the Moscow commentator says, would be “incomplete” if one did not mention the assistance that two individuals provided the Saratov courts in their weighty decisions.

            One was Nikitia Smirnov, a medical student and pro-Putin activist, who said he had filed a complaint about the group because he had “read on the Internet” that the group had received support from “foreign companies.”  Naturally, “as a true Putinist,” he said, he had to take action against this interference in Russian political life.

            And the other was historian Ivan Konovalov who was brought in by prosecutors seeking to have the diabetics assistance group declared a foreign agent. The historian testified that the group was “sending information to its foreign partners abut the so-called problems of the region, especially in medical assistance, which could be used for promoting protest attitudes.”

            Further, Konovalov declared, “the organization is forming the preconditions for discrediting the organs of power by declaring without foundation the corresponding structures of the government” involved in the distribution of insulin and “import substitution” and thus is “engaged in political activity.”

            Not surprisingly, Konovalov is a member of the ruling United Russia Party. 

            By its actions against pensioners and invalids, Yakovenko says, “the Kremlin is conducting an intentional policy of reducing the population under its control by means of liquidating all the superfluous members of it. An organization helping invalids contradicts this Kremlin policy.”

            That means, he says, “according to Kremlin logic,” it is “political and even more oppositional” and must be suppressed.

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