A new cold war is being waged without rules and without any kind of visible desire from the Russian side to initiate a new “détente,” or at least a “reset”.
The formation of a “protection services” market is a dangerous trend for the Russian power system. Navalny may have been poisoned by people who believe that the regime is no longer capable of dealing with threats itself.
The Serebrennikov case reveals a split within the Russian elite, and Putin’s refusal to back one side or the other. One part of it wants to re-Sovietize culture and punish artists who do not fit with their conservative agenda, while others continue to value artistic freedom.
Something has obviously changed in the legal system, and that something is the logic of repression. Despite all the skepticism, it seems that public opinion does play a role in the degree of repression in each particular case.
The replacement of Russia’s Human Rights Council head Mikhail Fedotov, who was completely loyal to the authorities, with United Russia party member Valery Fadeyev, determines the council’s status once and for all. It is first and foremost a presidential council, and only then a human rights council.
An open letter written by Russian Orthodox priests in defense of those imprisoned over recent protests in Moscow is that rare case when the use of the word “unprecedented” is no exaggeration. It’s the first time ever that the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church have taken collective action that was not sanctioned by the church authorities.
By September, the criminal cases brought against Moscow protesters had stopped being described as a “second Bolotnaya case,” and rightly so, because it was a false analogy. We have entered a new phase, in which we are seeing political protest cases that would previously have been classified as administrative violations be reassigned en masse as more serious crimes.
After two months of trial and error in dealing with the Moscow protests, it looks like the Russian authorities have started to define their red lines. As before, the slightest physical resistance to the authorities is met with harsh punishment, but the siloviki have stopped short of openly fabricating cases: not for the sake of society, but because this concerns the president too. The level of repression is abating, together with the displeasure of the civilian section of the elite closest to the president, which had been alarmed by the siloviki’s attempts to alter the status quo.
In Russia, any information can be classified without discussion, from genuinely secret data about military developments to information that is in the public interest, such as the level of radiation in cities, and the names of those killed or injured as the result of an accident. Official recognition of these deaths, by naming the victims and according them full honors, could have become a source of pride and a good precedent, but the authorities still have not done this following the explosion near Severodvinsk: it’s not even known exactly how many people were injured.
Reuters was right to publish information showing that Rosneft head Igor Sechin repeatedly used corporate aircraft for personal purposes.