In Russia, the repressive machine is racing

Worker in Volgograd, student in Yaroslav, artist in Saint Petersburg, engineer in Kaliningrad, retiree in Buryatia, entrepreneur in the Krasnodar region… Every day, in Russia, the list of citizens without any particular label prosecuted for “apology of Nazism”, “extremism” or “discreditation of the army”, according to the new law which came into force in March 2022, is growing. Between February 24, 2022, the date of the invasion of Ukraine, and December 3, 2023, 19,884 people were arrested for expressing their opposition to the war, according to the Russian NGO OVD-Info, specializing in monitoring of arrests and police brutality.

Then come the sentences: six, seven, eight years of imprisonment and up to twenty-five years, the heaviest sentence so far, inflicted on the opponent Vladimir Kara-Mourza. The youngest, Egor Balazeïkin, 17, was sentenced in November to six years in prison after being found guilty by a military court in Saint Petersburg of trying to burn down a recruitment center.

Nearly 300 women and men have thus joined opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses or persecuted Crimean Tatars behind bars, or 1,352 political prisoners, according to the latest count from the human rights NGO Memorial. Compared to the country’s population, 144 million inhabitants, these figures may seem modest, but they are constantly increasing. Above all, they exceed the number of political prisoners, 700, inventoried by Memorial in the years preceding Mikhail’s coming to power. Gorbachev. And the repressive machine is racing.

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Due to the slowness of legal proceedings, it is at this moment that the courts are operating at full capacity. For this week alone from December 4 to 8, OVD-Info recorded 177 hearings across the country, all dedicated to judging Russians who have expressed even one criticism against the war, an average of thirty -five a day. More than 780 criminal cases have been opened.

“Ukraine, forgive us”

“The repression makes no distinction of age: it can be a retiree or a young woman without influence. The message the Kremlin is sending is that no one is safe. And the sentences are very heavy, while hardened criminals are pardoned [des prisonniers recrutés en prison pour la guerre et de retour du front], it’s terrifying “underlines Olga Prokopieva, spokesperson for Russia-Libertés.

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