19 December 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
In his column for Vot-Tak, Russian journalist and human rights activist Aleksandr Podrabinek discusses the breakdown of the judicial system in the Russian Federation.
Back in October, on Russia Today television, staff Kremlin propagandist Anton Krasovsky proposed killing Russian-speaking Ukrainian children if they said Russia was occupying Ukraine. “Just go drown those children outright, drown them. That’s our method … throw them straight into a river with a violent, churning current… They call every hut of theirs there a solid spruce hut. Just shove them straight into that spruce hut and set it on fire.”
A normal solution in the style of the SS, Red Guard, and Khmer Rouge. Among them, Krasovsky would be a star pupil.
Moscow City Duma Deputy Evgeny Stupin directed a deputy inquiry on this subject to the Investigative Committee and received this answer: “The Main Investigative Administration of the Investigative Committee [GSU SK] of the Russian Federation for Moscow … has considered your inquiry regarding verification of the statements of journalist A.V. Krasnovsky over the Russia Today television channel. I can inform you that the inquiry we have received conveys no information about crimes committed or being planned against minors or with their participation. It contains no issues relating to the competence of the Russian GSU SK for Moscow.”
A normal answer in the style of a totalitarian regime’s parody law enforcement bodies.
At the same time, this spring, Moscow City Deputy Aleksei Gorinov, in the presence of several people, called the so-called special operation by armed forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine a war and spoke about the Russian authorities’ responsibility for the death of Ukrainian children. For this he was sentenced to seven years’ incarceration.
One called for drowning and burning children; the other agonized over their death. One is thriving; the other is in prison. The contrast is striking. To a society that is not completely dehumanized and thoroughly propagandized, this might seem inexplicable. However, the difference in approaches can be explained — and the state has taken pains to. Especially since in this regard there is rich national and foreign experience.
Release from Morality and Law
In the Soviet Union of the Stalinist era, criminal attacks on the life and property of “class enemies” were either not punished or were actually welcomed by the state. In Nazi Germany, crimes against Jews were virtually never investigated. During the “cultural revolution” in China and the period of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, violence against the intelligentsia was considered proof of “correct” class consciousness and lofty patriotism. In totalitarian countries, the law assesses the same criminal acts differently, depending on the victim’s social status.
Russian legislators are taking the same path. Right now the State Duma is considering a bill lifting criminal responsibility for crimes committed in the annexed territories of Ukraine if they were committed for the sake of “defending Russia’s interests.” What crimes these are and what is meant by Russia’s interests is not specified in the documents. Murder, rape, marauding, robbery — everything can be written off as “defending Russia’s interests.”
Releasing soldiers from the demands of morality and the law is one of the most attractive pluses for those who want to flex their muscles and limber up in war. Not for nothing are zeks [prisoners] convicted of serious violent crimes joining the troops.
For them, by the way, unlike all the other convicts, the court’s verdict loses effect as soon as they express a desire to fight in Ukraine. Their release is totally illegal, but all branches of the Kremlin regime are turning a blind eye. One has to think that the Okhotny Ryad legislators are about to pass a law reversing judicial decisions for the sake of “defending Russia’s interests.”
Russian criminal law is being degraded and vulgarized. The judicial system is being castrated and losing its meaning. The state obviously dreams of Stalinist times, when trials were in absentia and took a few minutes, and anyone the state found inconvenient could fall under the definition of “enemy of the people” and “counterrevolutionary.” Those were the days of simple decisions and harsh measures. As in war. How else to hold on to power? This tempting simplicity may have been one of the reasons for Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Translated by Marian Schwartz