Lev Ponomarev: Don’t cut down the forest or chop off people’s heads

7 February 2022

by Lev Ponomarev*, human rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group (included in the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation’s register of individual media foreign agents)

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Эхо Москвы]


The situation in the country can be assessed in terms of two dissimilar events this week.

Zarema Musaeva, the wife of retired federal judge Yangulbaev, was abducted from Nizhny Novgorod by a group of Chechen security forces and sentenced to jail until April. For the first time in recent weeks, lawyers were able to see her. Before that, they were simply not allowed to see her, referring to the fact that she allegedly refused them. The lawyer found her in poor condition, but in a strong enough state that she does not refuse the help of lawyers, and is not going to refuse it.

She faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of assaulting a police officer who kidnapped her. It is obvious to everyone that this is an absurd case, and that Musaeva is simply being held hostage by Kadyrov. A way out of this situation has been suggested to Putin, a proposal to transfer the investigation of the Musaeva case to the federal level so that she is at least taken out of Chechnya. Apparently, only the president can decide this issue.

But so far, we have seen no action. Those citizens of Russia who represent its other regions cannot help but see this inaction, which signifies the inability of the federal centre to ensure nationwide compliance with the basic provisions of the Russian Constitution. The entire country is within the zone of influence of Kadyrov and his security forces.

This is an explosive situation, a real Pandora’s box. When the federal government cannot correct the actions of the leader of one of the regions of the Caucasus who says that the family members of a person he finds disagreeable ‘belong either in prison or under ground’, and when a State Duma deputy for this region literally vows to chop off the heads of this family, it inevitably causes indignation and hatred, creating conditions for the development of the most radical forms of Russian nationalism.

Another story already concerns Moscow itself. I have already written about it.

After the outrageous attack against the defenders of the Troitsk Forest by a bunch of “young guys who were paid five roubles,” after arguments over the legality of cutting down the trees were publicly voiced, and even after the Human Rights Council and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman expressed concern about this situation…

… after all this, night fell, and the defenders of the forest were attacked again. The men hired by the construction company began to cut down trees, hoping to succeed in cutting down everything before dawn. As the locals say, it almost succeeded. Despite the fact that it is forbidden by law to cut down the forest at night, even if there is a permit for cutting.

These two dissimilar stories vividly illustrate how the country is essentially not even being governed. The law does not work, the government does not work.

To save the country, you need to stop cutting down the forest and threatening to chop off heads. Russia needs a different government and a different path of development. Under the current conditions, this can only be achieved by creating a wide network of ordinary people who want Russia to build its future based on Sakharov’s formula: ‘Peace, Progress and Human Rights’.

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Entered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in the register of individual media foreign agents.

Translated by Tyler Langendorfer

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