The daily beast
Russia plunges into the era of “dictatorship” when Putin appears over Eastern Europe
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEVMOSCOW – The day began with a dystopian wave of preventive arrests. Many of his opponents were already under wraps when President Vladimir Putin used an annual State of the Nation Address to remind people of what happens to popular uprisings within striking distance of the Kremlin. With Russian troops gathering in large numbers on the border of Ukraine, Putin, who has not been seen since the invasion of Crimea, glorified the fate of the pro-Western movement in Kiev seven years after annexing part of its territory. Similar forces are at play in Belarus, said Putin, where the CIA has been accused of rioting against the pro-Russian leader who rigged elections last year. Putin has helped President Alexander Lukashenko crack down on the protest movement that arose against the apparently stolen elections. In Russia, domestic protesters gathered during his speech, aware that a similar process was going on here as Putin’s rule slipped towards dictatorship. President Lukashenko will meet on Thursday amid ever closer military and political ties between Moscow and the former Soviet customer state. Putin has long wanted to set up a missile base in Belarus and would like to further integrate the countries in order to bring the former Soviet port of Kaliningrad within reach. In an obvious slip of the tongue, Putin started the Cold War era by referring to his Eastern European allies as members of the “Warsaw … [Pact]Putin claimed, while the West was allegedly shaking up the uprising in the region: “Nobody has thought of the fate of Ukraine and does not think of the consequences for the Belarusians.” He warned against further interventions in Eastern Europe would be a “red line” for Russia. “The organizers of provocations against Russia will regret it [it] in a way they have never done before, ”he said, promising an asymmetrical war while an estimated 100,000 soldiers, tanks and fighter jets wait at the Ukrainian border. The allegations against riots in Russia have already started. Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, was attacked in a nerve agent attack last year and arrested earlier this year on trumped-up charges. While Navalny supporters were yanked from their taxis or arrested in their homes ahead of Wednesday’s protests, He languished in a prison hospital in a Siberian penal colony. Doctors say his life is hanging by a thread. After Navalny fell ill while on hunger strike and refused access to independent medical professionals, his team called for a nationwide protest. On Tuesday and Wednesday, hours before the rally, police stormed the homes of Navalny supporters and arrested people on the streets and at work in Krasnodar, Kurgan, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and many other cities. Many are reluctant to join the protest because they fear long prison terms, not just the short administrative detention periods of up to 15 days that were common during the Putin era. And yet tens of thousands take to the streets in what they see as the final battle in Putin’s transformation into a dictator. One of the protesters is Navalny’s close friend Yevgeny Roizman, the former governor of the Sverdkovsk region. He led several thousand people on a march through Yekaterinburg, despite road closures and police vehicles equipped with water cannons. Roizman told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that several years in prison was an uncomfortable thought for a 58-year-old, but he was unwavering in his resolve. “This is a philosophical question for every Russian: either you live as a slave and a coward for the rest of your life, or you feel like a free and courageous man,” he said. Since the imprisonment of Navalny – which Amnesty International has described as a slow-motion execution – experienced Kremlinologists, opposition politicians and journalists have begun to openly describe a tough change in domestic politics, a path to “dictatorship”, not the so-called soft authoritarian model that sometimes attributed to Russia. Moscow politician Vladimir Ryzhkov told The Daily Beast that the country has changed since Navalny’s arrest at the airport when he returned from Germany three months ago. “Russia is now a dictatorship where young people and students are sentenced to prison terms for innocent social media posts,” he said. “It will be worse. Economic decline, capital outflow, falling incomes, technological lag – these are the inevitable consequences of Vladimir Putin’s domestic and foreign policies. ”After speaking to The Daily Beast, Ryzhkov was one of hundreds arrested for allegedly organizing the rallies on Wednesday after republishing details about becoming professors and students This month was deeply traumatized by police persecutions against the authors of the university newspaper Doxa. Four of the young journalists were arrested and others are being questioned – the crackdown on a student newspaper is seen as a new low point in media repression even under Putin. “The police broke the door to ours Apartment and arrested mine Friend about calling not to do this. Are you afraid to exercise our constitutional right to peaceful assembly, ”a witness told The Daily Beast. “Many want to leave the country, but the courage of the Doxa writers, who continue to publish despite the arrest of their friends, inspires all readers of the newspaper.” Gennady Gudkov, a Russian opposition figure in exile, insisted that this dark new era would never erase any opposition to Putin. “This is not the end of the resistance in Russia,” he told The Daily Beast. “If Putin becomes a dictator supported by the armed forces, the opposition will radicalize and work from underground.” On Wednesday morning, Navalny’s wife Yulia posted an Instagram video of herself entitled, “I am the queen of the underground. Read more on The Daily Beast. Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!” Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.