Staunton, July 28 – Even in places where protests have never taken place, Moskovsky komsomolets says, provincial officials are busily taking advantage of the new law imposing fines on Russians who insult the authorities, raking in money for themselves but further setting the population against them.
In fact, the Moscow paper reports, the controversial law, which Vladimir Putin signed only on March 18, has been applied even more actively in regions far from Moscow than in the major cities (mk.ru/politics/2019/07/28/zakon-ob-oskorblenii-vlasti-udaril-po-rossiyskoy-glubinke.html).
Before the Kremlin leader approved the measure, the Presidential Council on Civil Society urged him not to sign it because of its lack of precise definitions and thus would open the way to extraordinary arbitrariness. That is exactly what has happened, especially in regions where officials are using it in ways far from what even its backers favored.
The paper says that people in the regions have a long tradition of being sharply critical of local officials even if they are entirely loyal to Putin and the Russian government. Now, as it shows in a series of examples, the local officials have a weapon to fight back and they are using it with enthusiasm.
The paper suggests that the applications of this law in the regions do not reflect the growth of opposition there but rather problems with the law itself. But while Moskovsky komsomolets doesn’t say so, it is almost a certainty that people in the regions who are victims of arbitrary application of this law may very well acquire opposition attitudes.
If that is the case, the central authorities will only have itself to blame. The Kremlin pushed through and approved a law full of holes and lacks the interest or ability to ensure that officials beyond the ring road don’t apply it in ways that will backfire on the Russian government as a whole.