As the House of Commons elections approached, Russian opponents were suppressed but did not succumb | WGN 720 radio



Moscow (AP) – Months before Russia’s parliamentary elections this week, authorities unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on the opposition to prevent the Kremlin’s most notorious and vocal critics from escaping.

Some people have been barred from seeking public office under the oppressive new law. Some have been forced to leave the country under threat of prosecution. Some have been imprisoned.

Pressure was also exerted on the independent media and human rights activists. Twelve media and rights groups have been disastrously labeled as “foreign agents” or “unwanted organizations” and have been blamed for their connections.

A bemused opposition group admits that the Kremlin leaves few options and resources that are widely seen as key to President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to consolidate power ahead of the September 19 election. to augment. However, they still want to erode the power of the ruling United Russia party in the House of Representatives or Parliament.

“We still want to deprive United Russia of more seats so that many unapproved candidates (by the authorities) are members of the House of Representatives and local councils,” said the jailed opposition. Leonid Volkov, head of party leader Alexei Navalny, told The Associated Press.

Elections are very important because the Kremlin wants full control of the next parliament, according to opposition politicians and political analysts. The Duma, elected this year, is still valid in 2024, when Putin’s current term expires, and he must decide whether he will stand for re-election or choose another strategy to retain power. ..

“Putin likes to maintain uncertainty and make last-minute decisions,” said former Kremlin speechwriter and political analyst Abbas Gariyamov.

“Nobody knows what he will do in 2024 until the last minute,” Gariyamov said. “Will he represent himself or propose a successor?” … Will this be another constitutional amendment, or will a new cabinet need to be approved, or will the electoral law change? Is it necessary…. All roads must be open to Putin, and he must feel that his choices are not limited to anything. To do this, the parliament You must be absolutely obedient. “

Equally important is removing the risk of lawmakers in favor of a possible protest in 2024, according to Garyamov. Indeed, directly elected agencies that oppose the Kremlin, alongside protesters, could take the conflict to another level.

However, keeping control of the Unified Russian Parliament, which occupies 334 of 450 seats, is not easy.

A poll by an independent Levada center showed that only 27% of Russians were ready to vote for the party. Therefore, rolling opponents over and using administrative leverage is the only way, Galiamov said.

Putin’s biggest critic, who has undermined the dominance of United Russia in the regional parliament in recent years, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating the parole of his sentence, which he says is motivated by political considerations. There are. After returning from Germany to Russia, he was treated for drug addiction with nerve agents accusing the Kremlin of denying it.

Navalny’s main allies have been beaten by criminal charges, and his network of anti-corruption foundations and regional offices have been banned as an extremist organization.

He exposed hundreds of people associated with the group to prosecution. Congress also quickly approved a law prohibiting those associated with extremist organizations from seeking employment.

As a result, no one in the Navalny team was racing, and many left the country. About 50 websites operated by Navalny and his associates have been blocked and dozens of regional offices have been closed. Several other opposition activists were not allowed to do so because they supported Navalny.

Another prominent Kremlin critic, former lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov, was temporarily arrested in June along with his aunt for fraud. Mr Gudkov said he planned to run in the Moscow district against a less popular candidate for United Russia, but officials excluded him from the race.

“They took my aunt, found an allegedly rented 6-year debt for the basement she rented, added me to the case, arrested two of us for two days, and if you don’t “Don’t give up, you revealed this. Don’t leave the country in the elections, they will jail me and my aunt,” Gudkov told AP. Then he left the country.

Authorities also said Andrey, an open Russian opposition group funded by Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Putin critic who moved to London after being jailed for 10 years on suspicion of being widely viewed as revenge Politics. Pivobarov was imprisoned.

Pivobarov, who was planning to travel to Duma, was unloaded from a plane bound for Warsaw shortly before taking off from St. Petersburg and taken to the southern city of Krasnodar. He was accused last year of aiding a local candidate on behalf of an “undesirable” organization and has been jailed until an investigation is carried out.

Open Russia was closed a few days before Pivobarov’s arrest. With a twist, Pivobarov remains behind the bar until election day, but is cleared by a vote from the liberal Yabloko party. The allies say it is almost impossible for him to win.

Marina Litobinovich, human rights activist and one of the few critics of the Kremlin, said:

Litobinovich, a long-time member of the state’s public watch committee that oversees the treatment of prisoners and detainees, was fired after exposing abuses by jailed Navalny supporters. She was convicted of a criminal case last year and decided to appear in the Moscow district on behalf of prominent politician Julia Galyamina, who was prohibited from appearing.

Litobinovich told AP it was unclear that he “could be kicked out of the race, targeted for raids tomorrow, or involved in criminal investigations.”

“But we are trying to get over that feeling and move on,” she said.

Navalny’s ally Volkov repeated his feelings.

“It’s not very comfortable when a huge, very heavy, very stupid elephant is running towards you,” he said.

Despite the crackdown, Navalny’s team plans to deploy a smart voting strategy. This is a project to support the candidates most likely to defeat the candidates from United Russia. In 2019, smart voting helped opposition candidates win 20 of 45 Moscow city council seats. In last year’s local elections, United Russia lost a majority in the parliaments of the three cities.

Volkov said it was difficult to promote smart voting, blocking dozens of websites and threatening crackdowns. Online registration of projects jumped a year before Navalny’s addiction, but has declined this year.

However, the team’s smartphone app downloads are breaking records and are much more difficult for authorities to block.

Others plan to continue to insist on opposition to the United Russia vote. Pivobarov’s allies decided to continue his campaign despite his imprisonment. Last month, they opened campaign offices in Moscow and Krasnodar and greeted their supporters using Pivobarov’s cardboard clippings.

“For us this campaign is a megaphone,” Pivobarov’s main ally Tatiana Usmanova told AP last month in her Moscow office.

“Andrey’s goal was to understand that as many people as possible should not vote for United Russia, and that the elections are unfair…. Now we are talking to people about it. There is a legitimate opportunity. “


Daniel Kozin from Moscow and Tanya Titova from Kiev, Ukraine contributed.

As the House of Commons elections approached, Russian opponents were suppressed but did not succumb | WGN 720 radio

As the House of Commons elections approached, Russian opponents were suppressed but did not succumb | WGN 720 radio


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