In Russia, Ten Years in Jail for “Extremist” Speech

Igor Artemov


Editor’s note: Below is short article by Igor Artemov, chairman of the Russian All-National Union (RONS). The view of Vladimir Putin presented by Artemov contrasts sharply with the previous featured article, by Robert Bonomo. There is no doubt that the Western media harps on restrictions on free speech in Russia directed against Pussy Riot and propagandists for homosexuality—implying that Russian policies are illiberal, if not fascist. Such policies are clearly out of step with “enlightened opinion” in the West and hence detested by the New York Times, the target of Bonomo’s article.  Bonomo also implicitly suggests that the Western media and the NY Times in particular are concerned with the treatment of certain Jews who have run afoul of the Russian legal system (Browder, Magnitsky, Khodorkovsky), all of whom have become causes célèbres in the West, especially among neocons (e.g., Richard Perle led the campaign to free Khodorkovsky). And of course, Putin is also in disfavor in the West because of policies supporting the Syrian government and Iran, as well as strong ties between Russia and Ukraine.

However, Putin’s policies against the cultural Marxist zeitgeist that  dominates the West is only part of the story. Roman Frolov, who translated Artemov’s article and is in touch with nationalist circles  in Russia, writes that “for each persecuted Pussy Riot member there are thousands of Russian men persecuted for as little as derogatory remarks about migrants made in social networks. However, you have heard nothing about them because mass media is not interested in them and they don’t have powerful advocates.”

The NY Times et al. completely ignore the jailing of Russian nationalists; homosexual activists and Pussy Riot are another matter altogether.

The use of the legal system against Russian nationalists has been described in a previous TOO article by Pyotr Antonov (“Russian political prisoners in the Russian Federation,” August 6, 2013).  Antonov notes that

when reporting about the problem of political prisoners in Russia, mass media in Russia and abroad almost exclusively focus on Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the late Sergei Magnitsky and the “prisoners of May 6, 2012. “This creates an impression that the list of victims of political persecutions in Russia is limited by these people. However, in truth this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many, many others have been imprisoned during last several years for the sole ‘crime’ of being publically active Russian Nationalists.

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Frolov continues:

The truth is that Putin destroys Russia with unprecedented speed.

1. Multiculturalism (‘multinationality’) is the official Putin ideology. Ten years ago there were virtually no alien migrants in Russia. Now there are 15 millions of them, mostly Central Asians — 10% of the total population. Most of them are males of military age. In Moscow they commit around a half of all violent crimes. Moscow is no longer a Russian city. Now not a single month passes without some minor ethnic riot occurring in some part of the country, triggered by the depressingly similar scenario: a migrant kills a Russian, police either let the murderer go or don’t do anything, local authorities blame Russians for xenophobia, locals arise and protest. This is in fact good development as Russians learn that only rioting makes authorities listen. Unfortunately, as a result, the most active members of such events then go to prison.

2. In his official speeches Putin calls Russian (and only Russian) nationalists criminals and posits them as enemies of the state. Well, we are. Because this state is as anti-Russian almost as Bolshevik-run Russia used to be. All influential Russian Nationalist organizations are proscribed and outlawed, and no new ones are allowed to be established. All Russian Nationalist leaders have either emigrated, are on probation, or are under criminal investigation.

3. There has never been a period in Russian history when corruption was as rampant as now and when the courts were so dependent on “orders via the phone” from government officials in making decisions. Currently, the acquittal rate in criminal trials is around 0.5%. During Stalin’s times it was 10%. Police routinely use torture to extort confessions from sometimes randomly picked people. In those rare cases when public outcry forces the state to do something, the guilty party gets a ludicrously light sentence. (Incidentally, the December 2013 amnesty will result in early release of all such police sadists).

4. Putin destroyed the nascent Russian democracy. No recent election has been honest. The main practices are canceling or not allowing registration of inconvenient candidates, rampant vote rigging and fraud. Since courts are neutralized, there is not in a single case in recent years in which an election was officially acknowledged as invalid despite the overwhelming evidence to contrary in most of the disputed cases.

5. In fact, Putin is a usurper, an illegal president. First of all, he had no constitutional right to run for President for the third time. However, as the Supreme Court is fully under his control there never was a real problem for him. Secondly, he did not win the first round of elections — that is, he did not collect more than 50% vote. See for instance the paper on recent Russian elections: “Statistical detection of systematic election irregularities.”)

6. There is widespread infrastructure degradation in ethnically Russian regions of the country, with rampant poverty. At the same time enormous amounts of money go to the North Caucasus, which produces nothing but crime and terrorism. That is, Russian taxpayers pay for their life.

I can go on and on but the major point here is that Putin’s anti-homosexualist’s moves don’t make him a friend of Russians.

Igor Artemov, the head of the RONS, remains in exile. His article follows.

On December 16, 2013, the State Duma of the Russian Federation in the first reading adopted an amendment to the Penal Code of our country which would allow Russian authorities to punish their political opponents with even greater ease than before. From now on, all that is needed to jail a person is to accuse him or her of being an “extremist.” Anyone can be charged with extremism, anyone who, for instance, criticizes the foreign or domestic policies of the Russian authorities, because such a critique, in the opinion of said authorities, amounts to “excitement of social and national discord.”

Putin himself has initiated this intensification of political persecution by direct order to his cabinet. However, the new wording of the Penal Code articles is so vague and equivocal that any independent critique or opinion can be now construed as a crime.

The Russian Penal Code contains several articles, which in fact prohibit independent political activity and oppositional movements. These are Articles 280, 281, and 282. Previously, the activities proscribed by all these articles were qualified as minor or medium-grave offenses. Still, Russian courts routinely produced sentences for these “crimes,” which included jail terms between half a year and 5 years. It should be noted that from the point of view of the international law, such things are not crimes at all but manifestations of freedom of expression and freedom of association as it is understood in civilized countries. It is precisely for this reason that Russians who get charged with such “crimes” and escape from the country cannot be extradited, and Russian authorities usually do not demand their extradition. Fortunately, the international law does not contain an article criminalizing thoughts and political beliefs.

Until recently people who were charged with offenses covered by those articles were as a rule not imprisoned during preliminary investigation. Those accused of extremism were usually constrained by formal travel restrictions, the document, which officially prohibits the accused from moving or traveling outside of his municipality of residence. Of course, there were exceptions. For instance, Aleksey Kutalo, a member of RONS (Russian All-National Union), was arrested in June 2012 in Rostov-on-Don on a charge of “extremism” (Articles 282 and 282.2) and placed into pretrial jail for three months.

However, now a man charged with such a crime can be arrested immediately following initiation of criminal investigation and kept in jail for the duration of the entire pretrial period. It is also now possible to tap the phones of the suspect, bug his residence and workplace, conduct surveillance, etc., without special court order. I believe this is the main “technical” reason why Putin decided to make this amendment. The regime wants not only to jail its opponents but also to spy on them legally at any moment of time.

After the amendment to Penal Code was passed, the so-called “public calls to carrying out extremist activities” (Article 280) — that is, the public propaganda and promotion of one’s political views — is punishable by up to 4 years in jail. Likewise, “establishing an extremist circle” (Article 282.1, part 1), that is, for building up a political organization or a group of like-minded people, one can be jailed for up to 6 years.

Putin’s lawyers have thus secured the ability to incarcerate (without concern for legality) the leaders of political organizations which were legally established long ago and functioned openly, with an official license of the Ministry of Justice, but were later outlawed. Since such leaders are usually activists, they can now expect the maximal possible sentence of 10 years in prison (Article 282.2, part 1).

We harbor no illusions about Putin. Although until recently liberals in Russia were spared persecution on charges of extremism (only Russian nationalists and some leftists were targeted), this situation won’t last forever. Since the authorities possess the repressive apparatus, it will inevitably be used as they see fit.

And last but not the least, here is a breakdown of voice count in Duma during the voting on this amendment: 236 members of Putin’s party United Russia and 49 deputies from A Just Russia voted for this amendment — 285 votes in total. Ten deputies from different factions — only ten! — voted against the move. God bless them. Deputies of the Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party once again showed their true colors of ignoble political manipulators as they (88 Communists and 55 Liberal Democrats) simply skipped the voting.

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