Putin’s Russia feels increasingly like a fortress under siege

By | April 9, 2019

Vladimir Kara-Murza writes:

In October 1998, a court in St. Petersburg began hearings in a case against Alexander Nikitin, a retired Russian naval officer who alerted the world to the environmental dangers of a decaying nuclear submarine fleet in Russia’s far north. For partnering with a Norwegian environmental group on a report on nuclear safety, Nikitin was charged with “revealing state secrets.” He became the first person in post-Soviet Russia to be designated by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

Leading the charge against Nikitin was the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia’s main domestic successor to the KGB, and its newly appointed director — a fellow Petersburger by the name of Vladimir Putin. “The former KGB is calling the shots in this case,” Irwin Cotler, a well-known human rights lawyer from Canada who took up Nikitin’s defense, said at the time. “If that is indeed what is happening, then Russians have a lot to worry about.”

Perhaps even Cotler himself did not realize how prophetic his words would prove to be. Nikitin’s story, at least, had a happy ending: after an arduous judicial process, he was acquitted of all charges. This was still Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, where parliament was a place for discussion, where the media could criticize the government, and where the courts could rule on the law, not a phone call. The verdict in Nikitin’s case was passed on Dec. 29, 1999. Two days later, Putin, the man who had directed the charges against Nikitin, became the acting president of Russia.

Of all the ways that Putin’s rule has transformed the country, perhaps the most troubling is its state-driven paranoia. It was also the most pervasive characteristic of the organization where Putin had spent his formative years, the KGB. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.