By Paul Goble
Not surprisingly, Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine has attracted more attention, but the regime’s aggression against its own population and their media should not be ignored, not only because it is related to Putin’s war against Ukraine but also because it is transforming Russia in the direction of totalitarianism.
Having launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, the OVD-Info service says, “the Russian powers significantly increased internal repressions against oppositionally inclined citizens and independent media” (data.ovdinfo.org/repressii-v-rossii-v-2022-godu and meduza.io/feature/2022/12/23/v-2022-godu-kreml-ne-tolko-vtorgsya-v-ukrainu-no-i-ustroil-masshtabnye-politicheskie-repressii-v-rossii).
The data OVD-Info provides in its annual report are devastating: more than 20,000 citizens wer detained for political reasons, 378 criminal cases were launched on that basis, and more than 210,000 websites were blocked, part of a larger effort to intimidate or close media outlets that deviated from the Kremlin line.
Between January 1 and December 14, 20,467 people were detained on political charges, 19,478 of whom after the February 24 announcement of the expanded invasion of Ukraine. Half or more of those identified by name were women, a significant increase from the 25 to 31 percent in the 2021 Navalny demonstrations.
Meanwhile, between January 1 and December 16, the authorities blocked 210,450 internet sites, many for publishing materials at odds with official reporting or for using the word “war” to describe what the authorities insisted could only be categorized as “the special military operation.”
Over the course of the year, almost all independent Russia media were closed, blocked or subject to administrative pressure. Ninety journalists were declared “foreign agents,” and after February 24, more than 500 Russian journalists felt compelled to emigrate in order to do their work and avoid arrest.