Staunton, July 24 – The Russian authorities are rapidly moving to end even the limited immunity from civil and criminal charges individuals who protest on their own have enjoyed in the past, thereby closing down one of the last means Russian citizens have to dissent from what their government is doing.
That is the conclusion of Zona media journalist Aleksandr Borodikhin who traces the history of this tightening noose. Before 2012, Russian law did not even mention individual protesters and they were thus at least in principle free to engage in such protests (zona.media/article/2020/07/17/piket).
Then in the wake of the 2011-2012 mass protests, the Duma passed a law imposing penalties on those who engaged in a particular protest if others were cooperating with them in a serial protest or even if others not connected with them were protesting the same thing, restrictions that the Russian Supreme Court held were entirely legitimate.
Over the last four years, the regime has used this law ever more widely and repressively against its opponents – Borodikhin documents some of most prominent cases during this period -- despite the criticism it has received from human rights activists and the European Court for Human Rights.
Now, the investigative journalist says, it appears that the Putin regime has obliterated the distinction between large protests which require advance approval from local authorities and individual picketing which up to now has not. And as a result, he and other rights activists say, the Kremlin is shutting down this last means for Russians to express their disagreements.