Staunton, April 17 – Putin’s aggression abroad and his repression at home are mutually reinforcing, with each expansion of one leading to an expansion of the other. That means that some developments which seem completely unconnected are in fact intimately interrelated. One of those involves the Kremlin leader’s crackdown on defenders of Lake Baikal.
Two days ago, Moscow blocked Lyudi Baikala and Krasnoyarskoye vremya for disseminating what the Russian authorities said was “unreliable information” (meduza.io/news/2022/04/17/v-rossii-zablokirovali-izdaniya-lyudi-baykala-i-krasnoyarskoe-vremya and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=625BDD14BA972).
The editors of Lyudi Baikala said that “we always have worked without censorship and will try to do so in the future. We don’t write about the war because we are far away and cannot check information. But we have written and will write about how people in the regions experience the war” (t.me/Baikal_People/538).
Their project was launched in early 2020 and has devoted itself to coverage of events in Siberia and the Transbaikal, including the defense of Lake Baikal against Russian and Chinese developers. Its closure will make it easier for businesses to expand and further endanger that unique body of water.
But its opponents were able to secure its ban likely because it covered anti-war protests in Siberia and also has featured a running list of Russian servicemen who have died in the fighting in Ukraine (e.g., baikal-journal.ru/2022/03/23/voennye-pogibshie-v-ukraine/ and baikal-journal.ru/2022/04/09/pust-skazhet-spasibo-chto-eshhyo-ekstremizm-emu-ne-vmenili/).
These are just two of the more than 2300 webpages Moscow has banned and sought to shut down since Putin began his expanded invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but they are important because they highlight the ways the war is inflicting collateral damage on some and providing relief from any independent criticism for others.