Trip to Kyiv: Russia, gagged unrest

Kazimierz Kryzhich, from Moscow

Immediately after the military invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, a wave of anti-war protests spread throughout Russia. These were not just rallies and demonstrations, but also mass petitions from Russian citizens, public appeals and open letters from well-known figures of culture and art, political opposition leaders, union and labor activists, business representatives and numerous protests by common people.

The war was condemned by various parties, with some deputies even expelled from the party of pro-Putin Stalinist Zyuganov and stripped of their mandates. The Russian authorities, with clear experience in the suppression of popular protests and the destruction of civil society in Belarus, immediately reacted with massive repressions.

On March 3, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office stated that by participating in anti-war protests, Russians “engage in the activities of radical organizations, the participation of which entails criminal liability under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation” (participation in the activities of an extremist organization). Punishment – a fine of up to 600 thousand rubles or imprisonment for a period of 2-6 years.

On March 4, the State Duma and the Federation Council adopted draft amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation that introduced fines and criminal liability for Russians for spreading “knowingly false information” (“forgeries”) about the Russian army, calls for anti-war actions, as well as for sanctions against Russia. The State Duma also adopted in first reading a government bill that allows the prosecutor’s office to obtain access to personal data, not only as part of supervision, but also in the performance of other functions.

The Russian government unleashed the full power of its repressive apparatus and its propaganda machine on the nascent anti-war movement. Death threats, beatings, detentions, arrests, and trials forced many Russians to flee the country, and those who stayed had to abandon legal forms of anti-war struggle and activism.

Today it can be stated that in Russia, as in Belarus, all institutions of civil society have been destroyed. Any manifestation of a position of disagreement with the Kremlin’s policy is immediately prosecuted and severely punished. The labels “enemy of the people,” “traitor,” “spy,” “extremist,” “neo-Nazi,” and others are widely used by Russian propaganda to destroy and discredit anyone who declares their opposition to the war.

The fascisization of Russian society is growing rapidly, covering all spheres of its existence, from kindergartens, to the institutions of the highest political leadership of the country. At the moment, it is unlikely that there will be massive popular protests under such conditions. Furthermore, psychologically, many Russians accept Putin’s “special operation,” thus compensating for the inferiority of life in poverty and anarchy with the idea of ​​the “greatness of the Russian Nation.” However, this support can collapse in an instant, as soon as it is truly understood that the war with Ukraine can drag on for a long time. It can already be seen that the discontent with the war among the population is becoming more and more evident, starting with the sanctions. Factory closures, layoffs, shortages of imported goods, rising food and energy prices, cuts in social spending, a steady stream of Russian soldiers killed and maimed by Putin’s war, force many to wonder: What are these sufferings and privations for?

The struggle of the Russian people against Putin’s fascist clique has not stopped. Increasingly, more “Free Russia” symbols, as well as anti-war leaflets and posters, can be seen in Russian cities. In various regions of Russia, underground anti-war committees are being created, the movement is gradually structuring itself, adapting to the conditions of the Kremlin’s terror.