Russian President Vladimir Putin has pulled out criminal charges against rivals and jailed successful businessmen. He approved the jailing of two young women who stormed into the Moscow Cathedral to sing a prayer to the Virgin Mary to defeat Putin in the presidential election. Now, he has gone after one of the leaders of the protests that have been held against Putin from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok.
Police raided the home of Sergei Udaltsov at dawn on Wednesday and arrested him for “plotting mass disorder.” They were also raiding the homes of two associates who are being considered for charges. Assistant Konstantin Lebedev was detained for 48 hours for questioning. The charges have been built on a documentary shown on a pro-Putin TV station.
Udaltsov is as known for his unusual appearance as the women of Pussy Riot are known for their colorful ski masks. He looks like an American skinhead – shaved head, leather jacket and attitude to spare. He has served short jail terms for refusing to obey the police.
The documentary alleged that Udaltsov was funded by and received orders from an associate of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has an adversarial relationship with Moscow. The Investigative Committee issued a statement on its website saying “The main department of the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Sergei Udaltsov…based on evidence of…preparing mass disorder.” They are also looking at charging Udaltsov with planning “terrorist acts” in Russia.
The Investigative Committee is Putin’s private police force. They answer only to him and take all their orders from him. They also issued a clear warning to all protesters. “Those who think they can with impunity organize riots, plan and prepare terrorist attacks and other acts that threaten the lives and health of Russians, you understimate the Russian special serivces’ professionalism.” In short, the KGB has been resurrected and is reclaiming its place as the secret police force that sent so many dissidents to the Gulags of Siberia under communism.
I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out an equivalency. Arrest Hillary Clinton based on some right wing movie, like the one at the heart of the Citizen’s United case? Impeach George W. Bush based on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911?
The IC brought charges against opposition leader Alexei Navalny for organizing thefts of timber from a state company. Navalny, who has asserted his innocence, faces ten years in prison.
Putin is jamming through laws that remove the rights that Russians gained only 21 years ago. The only thing standing between Vladimir Putin and the restoration of the dictatorships of the Soviet era are the dissidents and protesters he is now seeking to jail and silence.