by Sarah Hurst
Alexei Navalny has called on people to publish a famous picture of Soviet soldiers in the victory parade in Red Square in 1945 holding captured German swastika flags and emblems. The picture appears on the cover of a history textbook that is commonly used in Russia, but one of Navalny’s supporters in Arkhangelsk, 59-year-old Mikhail Listov, has been put on trial and fined 1000 roubles ($17) for publishing the picture on social media. Listov might also be added to Russia’s list of “terrorists and extremists”, Navalny said in a video released today.
Excuses to prosecute
Authorities wanted to find a way to punish Listov for supporting Navalny, so they trawled through his social media posts and decided to charge him with public demonstration of Nazi symbols, Navalny said. He drew attention to a recent report by the Agora human rights centre (which itself has been deemed a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin), which said that 115,706 cases of restrictions of internet freedom by the authorities were registered in Russia last year, and that the number of people prosecuted for their online activities went up from 298 in 2016 to 411 in 2017.
One such case is that of Alexander Byvshev from Oryol Oblast, who has already been convicted of inciting hatred for writing poems in support of Ukraine, banned from teaching, sentenced to compulsory work and added to the list of extremists and terrorists – which means that his bank account has been frozen. Byvshev is currently on trial again for his poems, and this time there is a strong chance that he could be sent to prison. Illustrating the absurdity of Putin’s Russia, schoolchildren still recite Byvshev’s highly-praised poems about World War II in contests. Byvshev regularly publishes his poems on Facebook and on Ukrainian websites.
Putin’s government has constantly glorified World War II, and it wouldn’t be surprising if his propagandists start talking about how Putin himself rode into battle on a horse and destroyed German tanks, Navalny said. But in fact it is an “occupying regime”, he went on. “They will use any pretext to pressure people, steal from them, humiliate them, take as much money and taxes from them as possible, and those who refuse to be silent, like Mikhail Listov from Arkhangelsk, they will try to punish even using the most absurd methods, without a moment of hesitation,” he concluded.
Navalny doesn’t have to worry too much about whether or not he himself will be prosecuted for extremism, because Putin already has a criminal case in store for him if needed. Yesterday morning police came to Navalny’s home and presented him with a summons for questioning about his alleged “injury to police” during his arrest at the protest in Moscow on January 28. As he was walking down Tverskaya Street in a crowd of supporters he was mobbed by police and slammed to the ground, then carried into a police van. As soon as Putin has had enough of Navalny’s antics, he can put him behind bars at any moment.
Categories: Campaign diary