17 May 2021
by Lev Ponomarev, human rights advocate, member of the Moscow-Helsinki Group
“THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) WAS CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MEDIA OUTLET PERFORMING THE FUNCTION OF A FOREIGN AGENT, AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTION OF A FOREIGN AGENT”
Putin has “allowed” the celebration of Sakharov’s centenary. There will be events, meetings, speeches and even a concert given by Vladimir Spivakov at the Moscow International House of Music.
What actually is going on with the country these days – if we’re talking about “allowing”?
Thousands of politically active people across the entire country are waiting for all of Aleksei Navalny’s political structures to be declared extremist organisations, which will open the way to mass criminal prosecution of opposition figures.
As recently as 4 May, a group of deputies in the State Duma proposed a bill which, in direct violation of a constitutional ban, would be effective retroactively: it proposes to deprive anyone who was somehow involved in Navalny’s projects in recent years of the right to stand for election.
Let’s ask ourselves: what would happen to Sakharov if he was alive today?
In the eyes of the government, he would be an extremist. Maybe he would have already been killed, like Boris Nemtsov. Maybe there would have been an attempt to poison him, like Navalny. This is the position official Russia has today towards people like Sakharov.
Yes, one could assume that such cruel measures would not have been taken against him as a Nobel laureate and someone with a global reputation. This is possible, but there is no doubt that Andrei Sakharov would have left the Chekists hardly any choice. He would not have been able to sit by quietly and watch everything that is going on in Russia, and would have used all of his authority and vital power to speak out against the government, condemning their cruelty and defending Navalny and other political prisoners.
What does Putin think of Sakharov? What would Patrushev have to say about him now? Is there any pride in the words of even one state bureaucrat for the talented Russian scientist Andrei Sakharov, who managed to trade the laurels of an academic and his work on the most destructive of weapons for the active struggle for peace, progress and human rights – or in other words, for the so-called “pro-western liberal values” publicly condemned in Putin’s Russia?
Andrei Sakharov went down in history not as the creator of the hydrogen bomb, but rather as a man who was horrified by his own creation.
How will Putin go down in history? We can already make our own assumptions. But while he is still alive, he still has a chance to also be horrified by his own creation.
Translated by Elizabeth Rushton