There are two kinds of states: a state governed by laws and a state governed by men (or women). From the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 it was assumed that Russia could be lured into the rule of law. It was assumed that the best way of ensuring this was to turn it into a capitalist state in the briefest time possible, but without any education into what would ensure democracy.
I realised the immensity of the problem when, after a couple of years under Yeltsin, the most westernised Russian I had known told me that “they” should be locked up. “They” turned out to be hardliners regarded as warlike. When I said that the idea of democracy was that one’s enemies should be allowed to participate regardless of their views, he stood there looking utterly baffled.
State companies issued shares to the workers without anyone explaining how they would be a form of saving for a secure future without the former welfare state. Members of the British and other embassies came by, along with smart young Russians, and bought up as many as they could lay their hands on and made themselves rich within a few years. Most of the shares ended up in the hands of near criminal but certainly entirely corrupt enterprises.
The complete mismatch between the promise of virtuous private enterprise and the ugly reality of oligarchical capitalism laid the groundwork for the advance of the Siloviki under Vladimir Putin. Putin promised order and a fairer distribution of wealth with market reform. In the end all the population as a whole received was lots of order, the type the mafia in Putin’s home town monopolised with the most efficient protectionist racket I ever saw, whereas Moscow made do with a mulitplicity of competing gangs, until, that is, the Petersburg people came to town. The mafia then became the core of the state, with democratic trimmings.
This leads us to where we are now. Naval’ny, imprisoned for two weeks, has been hauled into court on trumped up charges that bear no relationship to the rule of law. He has been sentenced to two years and eight months, effectively for leading the political opposition to Putin.
Even a statist newspaper like Nezavisimaya gazeta is astonished and horrified at what has occurred; not just the trial but the manner in which the authorities succeeded in excluding from the court all manner of journalists while obliged to allow rafts of foreign diplomats to attend. The Americans – guided no doubt by reasons of state – did not turn up till late in the day.
From all this it is crystal clear that the Putin régime has taken a decisive and probably irrevocable step from creeping authoritarianism towards open dictatorship. Pandora’s box has been opened.
Today, 3 February, Moskovskie novosti reports morning protests in Moscow and Petersburg, at least 1145 people beaten and detained.
The French daily, Le Monde, asks whether the Germans cannot now be prevailed upon to abandon Nordstream II, the second Russian gas pipeline to Western Europe.
Après la condamnation d’Alexeï Navalny, l’Occident au défi de la répression russe
Les Européens et les Etats-Unis demandent la libération immédiate de l’opposant au Kremlin, condamné à trois ans et demi de prison.
Навальный превратил рассмотрение своего дела в митинг
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Процесс над оппозиционером создаст прецедент политического преследования вне правовых рамок