by Judith Bergman • February 21, 2022 at 5:00 am
- The [recently closed] Memorial Human Rights Centre focused on documenting current abuses, including keeping track of political prisoners. “Memorial creates a false image of the Soviet Union as a terrorist state,” state prosecutor Alexei Zhafyarov said. “It makes us repent for the Soviet past, instead of remembering glorious history.” The court, in its decision, cited the need to protect “the right of citizens to access reliable information” and prevent the “creation of a false image of the USSR.”
- Also in late December, a Russian court ordered the prison sentence of historian Yuri Dmitriev extended to 15 years. Dmitriev worked with International Memorial for three decades to uncover, among other things, mass graves from the era of Stalin’s rule.
- Now, in Putin’s most recent crackdown, anti-corruption activist and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s fiercest critic — already serving a sentence of 3½ years in a penal colony on trumped up charges of fraud — is facing a new trial…. The latest charges could lead to up to 15 additional years in prison…
- Last month, Russian authorities labeled Navalny himself a “terrorist and extremist”…. The designation means that Navalny has been added to Russia’s official Rosfinmonitoring register alongside organizations such as the Taliban and the Islamic State…. People on the terrorist list are effectively banned from Russian society, as their bank accounts are frozen and they cannot take loans or jobs.
- Even in prison, Putin is trying to break down Navalny completely. Other prisoners are not allowed to talk to him and since his hunger strike, two inmates have been ordered to follow him around at all times, from morning until night. “Without a doubt, even the simplest decisions about my life here [in the penal colony] get made in the Kremlin, and the important ones—like whether to allow the doctors in—by Putin himself.” — Alexei Navalny, Time Magazine, January 19, 2022
- [Navalny] also asked US President Joe Biden to stand up to Putin by imposing new and more efficient sanctions on the Russian president and his fellow Russian elites who have large assets abroad.
- “Putin is without a doubt the wealthiest person in the world. The source of his wealth is power and corruption. And the basis of his power is lies, propaganda and falsified election results. You want to influence Putin, then influence his personal wealth… Everybody knows the names of the oligarchs and friends of Putin who hold his money. We know those who finance his yachts and palaces. Those who support his second and third families. It takes a majority of these oligarchs to split Putin’s elites. Give them a signal that the regime in Russia today will not be an eternal paradise where they can rob the people inside Russia while easily and freely spending their earnings in Europe and the U.S.” — Alexei Navalny, Time Magazine, January 19, 2022.
- Republican Senators have announced their own sanctions package, the Never Yielding Europe’s Territory (NYET) Act, which would not only sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but also “Putin’s cronies, enablers, and major banks before Russia further invades Ukraine to ensure Putin pays a price now for hybrid attacks already launched.”
- “Total Russian private wealth held abroad is assessed at $800 billion…. Putin’s crony capitalism condemns Russia to near stagnation for as long as he stays in power. No political or economic reform is on his agenda, since reform would undermine his political power. Instead, Putin needs foreign adventures, such as the wars in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria to rally his people around the flag. The best defense of the West against Putin’s authoritarian and kleptocratic regime is transparency, shining light on this anonymous wealth, which is probably held predominantly in the United States and the United Kingdom….” — Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy.