Sunday, March 19, 2023

Russian Courts in Regions Levying Higher Fines for Anti-War Activism than Their Counterparts in the Capitals Do, Activists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 15 – It has long been established that the Putin regime, in order to avoid protests in the megalopolises, has been drafting and recruiting soldiers from the regions and republics beyond the city limits of Moscow and St. Petersburg. But less attention has focused on another difference in legal practice between the cities and the rest of the country.

            And that is this: courts in regions and republics are levying higher fines for those who protest the war in the regions and republics than those who do so in the major cities, according to activists for ROSFine, a civil society group that helps people who have been fined (

            This difference reflects at least three things: people outside the capitals are more likely to be charged with more serious crimes for the same offense than are those in the capitals, they are more likely to be given the largest fine possible rather than having it reduced, and they are often compelled to pay the same fine twice or three times if they don’t pay quickly enough.

            According to one ROSFine activist, this pattern does not appear to be the result of some order from the center but rather reflects the greater ability of courts in the regions to be draconian and the desire of judges and prosecutors to distinguish themselves as defenders of the center and thus provide reasons why they should not be sent to fight in Ukraine.

            However that may be, this difference in treatment between those charged with opposing the war in Ukraine in the regions and those charged with similar crimes in the capitals is significant for at least three reasons: First, large fines outside the capitals are likely to have a greater effect because the population is so much poorer.

            Second, this pattern makes protests outside of the capitals even more impressive because a fine of 30,000 rubles for discrediting the army may represent three or even four times the monthly income of Russians there, something that certainly represents a dampening effect on any desire to speak out against the war.

            And third, as it becomes known, it will only heighten the growing hostility between the regions and Moscow. After all, why should the people beyond the belt way not only have to fight and die more often than Muscovites or Petersburgers? Why should they be forced to pay greater fines for exercising their rights than the residents of the capitals do?


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