"The power that is supported by force alone will have cause often to tremble".
(c) Lajos Kossuth.
After the tragicomic situation that would not have any serious consequences for the authorities with the poisoning of oppositionist Alexei Navalny and the subsequent special operation by the Russian FSB to clean the codpiece of his underpants of all sorts of bad drugs, there have been some measures adopted by the Russian authorities that I would not call adequate.
I would not dwell on Navalny at this point. I would only like to point out that his second video confirms, once again, that the FSB did not poison him. However, the "codpiece zone" story is unbelievable. Earlier I still thought that the FSB somehow knew how to "keep up appearances". In December of last year, that opinion changed for good. And one more thing about the "codpiece zone". Navalny's second video, once again, confirms that no one has poisoned his underpants either. This very zone was cleaned to remove the remains of urine, which contained the remains of this very cholinesterase inhibitor. So we still do not who poisoned Alexei Navalny and how exactly. Everything else is propaganda.
Alexei Navalny's poisoning has produced two powerful propaganda videos that do not directly answer any basic questions about the motives behind the crime, the actual perpetrators of this atrocity, or the circumstances under which it all happened. "State propaganda" could easily have parried Navalny once again. However, this did not happen. Instead, the Russian government has become genuinely hysterical. As a result, we have "The First Year of Russian Juche".
So this is what has changed.
1. Article 128.1 of the Russian Criminal Code has been amended. This is about defamation. Now for "scribbling on the Internet", it is possible to go to jail for two or even five years. Essentially, we now have an analogue of Article 58 of the Criminal Code of the USSR. The article works very selectively. I tried to prosecute individuals under this article in 2013 when the article only provided for a "criminal record", and the refutation of facts was considered defamatory. The result is well known, I was told to get lost. The materials defaming my honour and dignity were changed through Roskomnadzor only last year, whereas there had been several appeals before. Something else can be found on the Internet even now, but I am too lazy to deal with it. However, I am sure deputies, oligarchs, and other Putin officials will not face this kind of problem.
2. Vladimir Putin has signed a law that would make it a criminal offence in Russia to block traffic on roads, highways and city streets even if this does not lead to serious consequences. In other words, the Kremlin is already looking even further ahead. 😀
3. At the same time, a law was signed allowing individuals to be deemed foreign agents. This law has such vague wording that it allows any Russian citizen tto be deemed a foreign agent if he/she participates in the social and political life of the country and receives money (for anything) from abroad. For example, if you go to a town hall meeting and then get Tax Free in Europe or the States, that's it, you are already a foreign agent. Get your codpiece ready for.... 😀
4. Article 330.1 of the Criminal Code introduced criminal liability for foreign agents. Failure to submit reports to the Ministry of Justice, evasion of registration as a foreign agent and violation of the procedure for foreign agent media will be punished with prison terms of up to 2-5 years, among other things.
5. You can say goodbye to Article 31 of the Constitution. This year, the regulation of rallies has been tightened. Now a solitary picket can be considered by the court as a rally, and if at this "rally" there was a sudden "traffic", then it is possible to go to jail for such actions for ten years. It is very Stalin-like.
6. Another law has been passed that bans the disclosure of information about the private lives and property of military, Interior Ministry, Rosgvardia and security officials, as well as officials of regulatory agencies, including the Federal Tax Service, Federal Customs Service, Federal Financial Monitoring Service, Federal Antimonopoly Service and the Chamber of Accounts.
7. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) has also been given the right to block foreign internet platforms that "remove publicly significant information in Russia" and "discriminate against Russian media materials". This is called "goodbye YouTube".
I would call all these measures the Navalny Package. 😀
Aside from the Navalny Package, by the New Year of 2021, Russians will have been treated to many more exciting events, such as the complete abolition of bank secrecy and greater police powers. From now on, police officers will not have to introduce themselves. They will also have the right to enter another's home and the right to conduct a body search of a citizen, their belongings and car if the law enforcement officer "has reason to believe" that the citizen is carrying weapons, ammunition, explosives, narcotics, psychotropic or radioactive substances. This kind of "amendment" is already unprecedented even without Navalny.
As for the Navalny Package and all the other new legislative madness, I have little faith that it is all directed against Russian liberals. In general, Russian liberals are, of course, harmful, but cowardly people. There are not particularly ideologues among them who are prepared to go to jail for their views and for free. At least, I cannot think of anyone right now. The Kremlin is now more concerned about the state of affairs in the country as a whole. The first series of amendments was passed on that basis. The Navalny Package was adopted as an afterthought, but it is unlikely that this kind of measure had not been worked out before. These events illustrate how fires can be extinguished with kerosene.
As you know from the school physics course, if you close the water boiler hermetically and heat it for some time, it is sure to explode. So this is exactly what is going to happen in Russia. The Kremlin hermetically seals all possible legal ways of expression of dissatisfaction with existing authorities, but at the same time, "boiler" is heating up more and more. And when it explodes, it won't be pretty. Thus, there are serious and absolutely inadequate forces in the Russian elite from the point of view of the ultimate aims for the ordinary Russian citizen, who are waiting and actively preparing for this. We have all seen an example of this kind of force working, and even directly linked to British intelligence, in 2014 in the south-east of Ukraine. And by 2021, there was a very serious addition to the ranks of these very forces.
Vladimir Putin demonstrated in 2020 that he is not going anywhere. He changed the Constitution, and at the end of the year, he adopted all these laws that, de jure, allow any Russian who disagrees with the authorities' actions to be "pounded", literally, into the asphalt. The Kremlin is also well aware that they are wrong in their actions, as evidenced by the hysteria after Navalny's show. The Kremlin only intends to fight back by "tightening the screws", not by any more sensible solutions. I doubt that modern Russia is the kind of country that can "run" the DPRK scenario with the Great Leader. Admittedly, all the alternatives for Russia are unlikely to be better.
At the end of this article, I would like to write my opinion on what is happening. My paths with the Russian authorities diverged in 2016, after the State Duma elections which I took part in the primaries. More precisely, I would not even call it an election. It was just some kind of extravaganza in which the "pawns" and "queens" were placed in their final positions long before the party started. I left United Russia in December 2017 as well. Those who call today's "Party of Power" an analogue of the CPSU are wrong. Things are even sadder. In general, Russia lacks a party system. All Russian parties have neither ideology nor any independence. This is particularly true of parties such as The Communist Party of the Russian Federation and Yabloko. While everything is clear on United Russia, A Just Russia — For Truth and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, even an autistic person can understand that, there is still some claim to ideology in those two parties, which does not really exist. Alexei Navalny should be seen in the same vein. "Fighting the thieves" is not a political ideology. All the more so when he is still all about a KirovLes case. Let us not forget about the Kirovles case.
Until September 2019, I was still seriously considering a return to Russian politics. The only problem was that I did not see any forces worth uniting with. In general, Russian politics is now strictly divided into "systemic" and "non-systemic". The last serious "non-systemic" politician was considered to be Alexei Navalny. However, I do not see anything "non-systemic" about him. The point is that Clans define Russian politics, and there are many of them. "Non-systemic" stance in Russian politics is more about being a "freak". You are a freak If you do not belong to any "clan" and rally for "world peace". These were the National Bolsheviks, the Left Front, the Nationalists of all stripes and other movements, which in turn were crushed by the FSB. These are the kind of personalities the Kremlin fears the most, though they are, in fact, the least dangerous to it. "Ne trahissent que leurs propres", as they say in French Masonic lodges. Even the biggest protests in the history of Putin's Russia, which happened in December 2011, were "systemic". Boris Nemtsov organized them, and the result was the firing of Vladislav Surkov, the aide to the ultimate beneficiary of the whole mess at Lubyanka. In other words, there is simply no serious "non-systemic opposition" in modern Russia. If you are outside the system, you are a "freak", and you will simply be crushed. There are many ways of doing this. If you are "systemic", then you will end up like Viktor Pelevin's clowns, and you know who it is. At the same time, any deviation from the "system" is severely punished. I have seen a typical example of this in Pskov. There is one journalist, Svetlana Prokopyeva. As long as she behaved well, she was forgiven everything. As soon as she crossed a certain "red line," the FSB immediately came and taught her sprogs a lesson, to the shrieks of the entire liberal public.
Some serious "systemic" clans in Russia could benefit from destabilizing the situation in the country. Russian people will be involved in this process in the first place. The "cauldron" is heated, the "lid" is hermetically sealed. In the end, people will have to move only forward and at a high speed at the moment of the climax. 😀
I am saying that being an independent politician in Russia right now is impossible and even dangerous. That is why I have decided not to return to Russian politics because there has not been any politics in Russia for a long time. What kind of politics can there be in a neo-feudal system, on the eve of yet another "putsch" among vassals?
So, the reason for this "tightening of the screws" is a "fight of the bulldogs under the rug", typical for the very top of Russia. Who shouts the loudest in this "fight" is the one who has the least knowledge and understanding of these processes but is rather used by various clans to achieve one or another result. Fortunately, there are plenty of "bulldogs" under the Kremlin rug, and no political scientist can predict the result of their "dogfight". I think we cannot expect anything good.
Dmitrii Ershov, political scientist.