Friday, February 28, 2020

‘Network’ Sentences Generating ‘Unprecedented’ Solidarity Among Russians, Ponomaryev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – A long-standing charge against the Russian opposition is that unlike its counterparts in other nations and countries, its members seldom display solidarity with those within its ranks who have been arrested.  Lev Ponomaryev says that may now be changing in response to the increasingly arbitrary and brutal behavior of the authorities.

            People from the arts and professions have all come out in opposition to the draconian sentences handed down in the Network case. And the rights activist says in a Voice of America interview these are growing into “shows of solidarity” with those who now face long years in jail (

            This “unprecedented campaign,” Ponomaryev says, “has good prospects. In my memory, this is happening for the first time” and it is occurring spontaneously, an indication along with statements of support by some politicians like Sergey Mironov of Just Russia and Valery Rashkin of the KPRF of how broad and deep these feeling are.

            They have arisen because of the fears of many Russians about where “the controlled actions of the FSB” are leading and especially because such moves by the special services could set the stage for “a return to mass repressions which existed in Stalin’s time, the long-time and embattled human rights activist says.

            “I have been saying already for a long time that in fact, the domestic policy of the country is being conducted by the special services and that they are acting out of control. Nothing good will come from this. They always exaggerate their own corporate interests, including financial and careerist” and “this will lead to the collapse of the country.”

            The currently uncontrolled quality of the work of the special services is “extremely dangerous,” he continues; and an awareness of that is spreading throughout the society. But Ponomaryev adds that he would like to see the appearance of “a more or less coordinated movement of resistance.”

            “I hope that this will occur. In any case, I will do what I can to promote it. We need a coalition for freedom, democracy and a change of those in power.” And there is reason for some optimism, he says; the FSB is clearly “startled” by what has happened.  And that may lead to some within it to consider change. Russian society needs to keep up the pressure.

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