Monday, March 17, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Russian ‘Siloviki’ Stage Provocations against Opposition to Limit Medvedev’s Options, Rights Activists Say

Paul Goble

Baku, March 18 – “Extremist” elements within the Russian state are staging provocations against democracy activists to exacerbate social and political tensions there and thus force Medvedev to continue the Kremlin’s increasingly “repressive” approach, according to a public appeal by human rights leaders posted online yesterday.
They have called on people and governments around the world to consider as “prisoners of conscience” all those who have been “detained or arrested in the Russian Federation” in recent weeks “in connection with their participation in [entirely lawful] public actions (
The group, which includes such longtime human rights leaders as Lev Ponomarev, Sergei Kovalev, and Valery Borshchev, said that it wanted to call international attention to the ever more frequent application of “in our country of political provocations” against “opposition figures and in general those who think differently.”
Among the most frequently used methods in this regard, the appeal’s authors noted, have be “the fabrication of criminal and administrative cases, shadowing, beating and even murder of activists as happened with Yuri Chervochkin,” as well as “pressure and intimidation” of various kinds and the mistreatment of those in detention.
Arguing that such “demonstrative manifestations of illegality” represent “extremism on the part of those in power,” the group argued that the current upsurge in such actions reflected an effort by what it called “the ‘force’ wing’” of the Kremlin to increase tensions and thus force the incoming president to conduct “a repressive policy.”
“Today in Russia, in Moscow and in St. Petersburg,” the appeal said, those being “punished -- just as during the era of totalitarianism” -- include people involved in “completely legal organizations” whose views and activities those in power do not for one reason or another happen to like.
This appeal, which was released with its latest list of signatories yesterday, is not the most negative of commentaries that have appeared in recent days on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Russian Federation in the last days of the administration of President Vladimir Putin.
Last Friday, “Rossiiskaya gazeta” human rights ombusman Vladimir Lukin’s report to Putin ( Both the report itself and Putin’s failure to deal with the problems it found led to a sharp comment by’s Yuri Gladysh (
According to him, Lukin told Putin nothing that Putin did not know or at the very least should have known. Gladysh pointed to widely published remarks by former prosecutor general Yuriy Skuratov that Russia’s law enforcement establishment is increasingly ineffective in carrying out its legal responsibilities.
Moreover, the writer added, human rights activist Aleksandr Podrabinek has said that “the actions of ‘the law enforcement agencies’ are often suspiciously similar to those of members of an organized criminal groups” – if anything an understatement, Gladysh suggested.
This terrible situation, he continued, has its roots in the unfortunate reality that among the former Soviet countries, the Russian Federation was the only one that did not conduct a thorough housecleaning of the communist-era police, a measure he suggests is a necessary precondition for their working to defend the law rather than undermine it.
But there is little chance that this situation in Russia will change, Gladysh concluded. “It helps the powers that be to have the population kept in fear before people in uniform. A police force that answered only to the law and sought the punishment of all those who violated it without exception is not something our bureaucracy needs.”
“Therefore,” the commentator suggested, “as soon as Lukin turned in his report, it was carefully filed away. “And the next day, our senior leaders will happily forget about it” – especially as, if seems tragically likely, few in the international community will focus on what Russian human rights workers are saying.

No comments: