Almost a year into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the state is cracking down ever harder on all signs of dissent. Today exiled or jailed, the Russians who spoke out against the war are key to rebuilding a peaceful, democratic society.
By Ilya Budraitskis, January 22, 2023
It can be confidently said that in the year since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s government has undergone a transformation, finally turning into an openly repressive dictatorship. While in the last few years practically all organized opposition has been crushed, and independent media subjected to tremendous pressure, Russia retained the characteristics of a so-called managed democracy — with extremely limited civil liberties and a formally multiparty system.
Now, in retrospect, we can see how the repressive efforts of recent years were part of the preparations for the war. By the time of the fateful date of February 24, 2022, many political leaders who could have called for antiwar protests (such as Alexei Navalny) were already in prison, alternative media’s audience was constantly falling due to restrictions, and legal parliamentary parties (primarily the Communist Party) were purged of truly oppositional activists. Obviously, the war pursued not only external, but also internal goals — ensuring the uncontrolled personal power of Vladimir Putin and the total domination of his political apparatus over Russian society.
A week after the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian parliament unanimously supported a package of laws that effectively introduced military censorship. Thus, for the dissemination of “fake information about the actions of the armed forces” you could get up to ten years in prison, and for “discrediting the army” up to five years. Here, “fake” means everything that differs from the official reports of the Ministry of Defense — for example, disseminating the facts about Russian military violence against civilians or the real numbers of military casualties.