19 April 2021
Pictured left is Lev Ponomarev, human-rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
One of the authors of the text, Lev Ponomarev, has been designated a FOREIGN MEDIA AGENT by a decision of the Ministry of Justice.
On 16 April the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office demanded that the Anti-Corruption Foundation* (FBK), Navalny’s headquarters, and legal entities associated with FBK* be designated as extremist organizations.
Yesterday, the Moscow City Court restricted access to all materials related to the verdict, determining that only lawyers can review them, and only on the day of the session.
This is more than just an entirely novel situation — it’s an open proclamation of the start of truly massive political repressions that will affect tens of thousands of people.
It is obvious to everyone that what the FBK* does, what Navalny’s supporters do, and what happens at his headquarters couldn’t be further from extremism. The main demand of these people today is to let doctors see Aleksei Navalny; and in the long term they’re demanding Navalny’s release from prison and an end to his politically motivated persecution. Hundreds of thousands of people in Russia and abroad support these demands. We support them, too.
Political investigations, harsh criticism of the authorities, peaceful protests, supporting candidates in elections, protecting the persecuted — these are all entirely legal activities that are necessary and natural in a democratic society.
In Russia, the word “extremism” has lost all of its legal meaning; it’s ultimately become a propaganda catchphrase, a pretext for persecuting political opponents. After all, this isn’t about ideas of national or racial superiority. It’s not about inciting hatred, enmity, or violence, and it’s not about actual violence.
The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has launched a massive criminal prosecution against hundreds of thousands of people who support democracy and change within the government throughout Russia. The only characteristics representative of this group of people are their political convictions, their peaceful political activity, and their support, in some form or another, of Aleksei Navalny. It’s not only Navalny’s obvious supporters who will be the victims. There are thousands of FSB officers throughout Russia who aren’t going to just sit idly by.
If you want to see real extremism, or even condoned terrorism, just turn on national TV. On TV you can see social groups pitted against each other, condoned political violence, calls for other states to be seized and destroyed — and this is shown publicly, to an audience of millions. But the top-tier extremism can be seen in the provocations and violence of the security forces against civilians, when torture and terror go unpunished and people who are clearly innocent are thrown into prison. We could think back to the Network case, but now even adolescents who are still in school are registered as “terrorists.”
We are well aware of the practice of persecuting so-called extremist organizations. Quite literally anything an investigator wants can fall under the sneaky wording of “furthering the activities of an extremist organization.” For example, today Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted**. Their meetings and group prayer gatherings are equated with extremism.
This is exactly how it goes: it starts with marginalized groups and communities. At this point they’re already coming for everyone else.
The Nuremberg trials, which condemned Nazism, raised a difficult and painful question about the responsibility of the German people for the catastrophe that befell them. Today, apparently, Russia is clear proof that this can happen to any nation.
* The Russian government considers this organization a foreign agent.
** This organization is banned in Russia
Translated by Nina dePalma