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.
The arrest of Ivan Golunov on bogus drug charges sparked intense protests against the menace of the corrupt security state.
No one denies that drug lords really exist, but so long as everyone is busy fabricating cases against innocent people and battling to meet crime targets, the real ones go about their business undisturbed. After all, their cases would need proper investigation: real criminals are clever and cautious.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 has long stopped being just another aircraft, and has become a sociopolitical symbol of hope and disappointment. The project launched almost 20 years ago as a dream of conquering the world has turned into a thorn in everyone’s side. It seems that everyone, from government officials to airlines and passengers, is tired of the Superjet, which raises the question of whether the plane should continue to exist.
Abyzov’s arrest demonstrates that the prosecution of economic crimes is becoming chaotic, and that politics, which previously loomed large behind high-profile arrests, now appears only after the fact, as a secondary, albeit important, consequence.
An impartial reading of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project investigation into Troika Dialog can offer only one conclusion, and it is not remotely innovative: financial institutions where compliance procedures were far less stringent ten years ago than European regulators insist on today could be used for money laundering. That is no more original than concluding that knives can be used to stab people. Yet it hasn’t occurred to anyone to blame crime on the creators of its weapons.