Staunton, September 21 – Over the last four years, Russian human rights activists say, there have been at least 209 attacks on activists, politicians and journalists, few of which have ever been investigated by the police let alone measures taken against the perpetrators. As a result, such “political force has become the norm” in Russia today.
The report was compiled by experts at the legal services department of the Defense of Protest organization (guides.files.bbci.co.uk/bbc-russian/Political_Violence_Report_Apologia.pdf) and is summarized by Snob journalist Olga Morozova today (snob.ru/news/166004).
The largest number of such cases has been registered in Moscow (52), with St. Petersburg (23) and Krasnodar kray (15) following its lead. Since 2015, the experts say, the number of such attacks and threats has risen 400 percent. “As a rule,” Morozova says, “law enforcement agencies do not investigate these crimes” unless they are directed at pro-Kremlin people.
Supporters of Aleksey Navalny and Mikhail Kasyanov are the most frequent targets of such violence. Since December 2016, Navalny supporters have been attacked by persons unknown 50 times and threatened 45 times more. Most of the weapons used are knives or clubs rather than guns.
This trend is important, the authors of the report says, because “force against activists in Russia has become the norm,” something that is possible because of the support spoken and unspoken the attackers get from well-placed officials and politicians. Various informal groups with links to the powers that be, like Putin’s “Cossacks,” are heavily involved.
The fact that such people can use violence without threat of punishment is creating a dangerous situation not only for activists but for Russia as a whole by creating a class of people who feel themselves beyond the law and thus capable of acting in increasingly ugly and violent ways.
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