Saturday, August 18, 2018

‘Decriminalization’ of Likes will Lead to More Anti-Extremism Cases Not Fewer, Volkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – Putin regime plans to decriminalize Internet likes and reposts, plans being celebrated in some quarters as liberalization, will lead to more rather than fewer charges but less social protest about them and thus make it less rather than more likely that the notorious Paragraph 282 of the criminal code will be repealed, according to Leonid Volkov.

            Widespread rumors that the Kremlin will push for “the decriminalization of likes and reposts,” that the “’Shargunov law’” on that point will be adopted, and that charging all and sundry under Article 282 will stop, the opposition politician and former Navalny campaign aide says, need to be understood as the fraudulent political step they are.

            These things mean that no one is about to repeal Paragraph 282, which will remain a potent tool for fighting dissent, and that those who like or report things the authorities don’t approve of will be subject to administrative punishments rather than criminal penalties (

                “What does this mean?” Volkov asks rhetorically. “Over simply it means that the number of cases will be more but the reaction less, that is, the public reaction” which has been behind the review of “the odious Paragraph 282.“  No one will be especially upset by people being sent to jail for 15 days, and the powers will still have that provision in reserve to use selectively.

            This is what “a thaw and liberalization look like in Russia in 2018,” he continues.  That is not to say this isn’t a step in the right direction in one regard, but it is not the victory that some are suggesting – and it certainly does not mean that the regime has changed in any fundamental way.

            Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva offers a related point. She writes that “the most dangerous thing in present-day Russia is the decay of the terms ‘crime’ and ‘law.’ Essentially,” she suggests, “today it is possible to give one and the same definition: ‘this is why you can be put in jail. ‘A crime’ in this sense is an occasion, and ‘a law’ is a means.”

            To make her point clear, she offers an updated version of a Stalin-era joke: “What are you in for?” one prisoner asks another. “For a like,” the second say. “You’re lying,” the first says; ‘for a like, they give five years; but you’re in for eight. For a repost, won’t you admit?” (

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