Staunton, January 18 – Vladimir Putin has “chosen the Belarusian path of dictatorship and repression,” opposition figures, who were released this weekend after being detained in a sanctioned protest action on December 3, told the media yesterday, and the Russian leader has opened the way to future clashes and violence of the kind many call “big blood.”
Three leading opposition figures, Eduard Limonov, the head of the banned National Bolshevik Party, Boris Nemtsov, a leader of Solidarity, and Ilya Yashin, a leader of Solidarity’s youth wing, whom Amnesty International had identified as “prisoners of conscience” spoke at a Moscow press conference (www.nr2.ru/moskow/316481.html).
In the past, Limonov said, the powers had come after him for organizing “unsanctioned meetings,” something he never denied. But now officials appear to have decided on the use of “demonstrative force” and to go after even those who have permission to take part in officially sanctioned meetings.
“This is yet another decisive step toward a fascist regime,” he continued. Russian society has always “expected to see fascism in the form of skinheads but now state fascism has arrived.” People must struggle against it “to the end,” and he pledged to do so even though he indicated that he “could not exclude” that he would be killed in the process.
Nemtsov for his part said that the recent actions by the Russian authorities show that there is no longer any real court system left in the country but rather only a set of institutions that the powers that be are prepared to use against any and all opponents in order to hold on to the powers which they “are afraid to lose.”
“For the first time in 50 years,” Nemtsov pointed out, those in power have arrested a former vice prime minister. “This means,” he suggested, “that in principle the prime minister too can be arrested,” and that everyone is now at risk, however secure and comfortable he may feel at present.
What is going on in Russia today, he continued, is “a Moscow to Minsk train. Then to Ashgabat, and then I don’t know. [Perhaps] Pyongyang. [The powers that be in Russia] hate Lukashenka like all dictators hate one another. But they copy [the Belarusian leader’s] methods.” Consequently, what is going on in Russia, Nemtsov said, is “the Lukashenka-ization of Russia.”
Yashin put it bluntly: “Putin is leading the country toward big blood,” the Russian expression for a massive crackdown rather than the selective targeting of opponents that has occurred up to now. “Judging from everything,” he said, “Putin is prepared to hold onto power [even] at the price” of such actions.
Such moves will “provoke a civil war” by creating “an atmosphere of hatred in our country,” Yashin said, adding that “we are not revolutionaries. We are supporters of the exiting Constitution. Putin and his entourage are conducting a war with our Constitution. If we don’t defend it, the country will collapse. Putin is leading the country toward collapse.”
Many commentators with links to the regime have accused these three and other members of the opposition of being closely linked with the West. They took this occasion to show that such charges are not true, arguing that the West should end all sanctions against Russia but impose them on the current ruling elite.
Nemtsov was explicit: “It is necessary,” he said, “to life all sanctions against Russia … and to introduce sanctions against those scoundrels who are guilty of the destruction of elections and freedom, the introduction of censorship and so on.” The list of those should begin with Putin but include others like Vladislav Surkov as well.
“If the world community really wants there to be democracy in Russia,” he continued, “the ideal variant would be to have this list confirmed by the European Parliament.” That is because those on such a list “make their money in Russia but keep in Europe” where they take vacations and educate their children.
But Limonov was skeptical that anything could come of Nemtsov’s proposal. “The dependence of the Europeans on Russia gas” means, he said that “they will not start an argument with Putin and his friends.” That, he continued, is “our misfortune and no one besides the Russian people will be able to do anything about it.”