Staunton, October 14 – Kaliningrad, long a testing ground for Russian economic reforms, in recent times has begun to “play the very same role in criminal practice,” Mikhail Feldman says. In the past, the authorities there felt compelled to follow the letter if not the spirit of the laws but now no longer feel the need to do even that.
To the extent what is happening in the Russian exclave may be spreading to other regions of the Russian Federation, the regional analyst argues, it is clear that the Russian legal system as a whole is increasingly ready to act not only arbitrarily but in many cases in the same way terrorist groups do (region.expert/bars/).
And that in turn means, he continues, on the basis of his analysis of what the powers that be in Kaliningrad have been doing in the case of the Baltic Avantgarde of the Russian Resistance (BARS), it is entirely correct to describe the Russian state as a terrorist organization that has become fundamentally illegitimate.
Over the last two years since the BARS activists were detained, Feldman points out, they have been the victims of tortures, threats, blackmail, and all the kinds of things associated with a criminal group but not with a normal government. Worse, the absurdity of the charges which keep changing is that what is going on is an act of revenge, again a mafia not state action.
But if the tactics the Russian authorities have used over the last 30 months have changed little, there have been three major shifts in overall strategy that should be noted and suggest a serious deterioration in what used to be called law enforcement by the powers that be in the Russian Federation.
First of all, the BARS members are being charged and mistreated not for actions they have taken but on the bases of unconfirmed charges about their intentions. That opens the way for anyone under the power of the Russian state to become a victim if it suits the purposes of those in charge.
Second, two years ago and in most cases at that time, Feldman says, the police and the courts at least nodded in the direction of trying to come up with semi-plausible charges and to follow established procedure. Now, the authorities feel they can act however they like with impunity, again opening the way to a Hobbesian world or a totalitarian one.
And third, the sentences that prosecutors are demanding and courts are handing down are increasingly draconian, far out of proportion to the crimes that the individuals supposedly have thought about committing but that the powers that be lack the ability to prove. They simply assert guilt and expect that to be accepted.
Taken together, these shifts mean that the powers that be have shifted from trying to punish people after they act to “preventive frightening of society” so that no one will think about acting against the power vertical. Such actions are those of a criminal or terrorist group, not those of a state that follows its own declared laws.
Moreover, the increasing proclivity of the authorities to detain someone and then extend and extend their period behind bars supposedly while an investigation is going on is little more than the taking of hostages, again the action of terrorist groups or mafia-type organizations rather than a legitimate state.
But perhaps most disturbing is that the Russian pseudo-state is increasingly adopting laws that in and of themselves violate the constitution but that allow the powers that be to say they are acting legally and thus should not be condemned for their violations of the rights and freedoms of their citizens.
That pattern, however, Feldman concludes, is confirmation of Cicero’s observation that “the closer to the collapse of an empire, the more insane its laws become.”
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