Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International denounce that since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012, there has been a “crackdown in civil society” without precedents in post-Soviet era, says HRW. All this with a bunch of new laws and amendments of existing laws that compromise the rights of free speech, free association, free demonstration and the work of the NGO with foreign fundings.
Amnesty International calls the situation a “witch hunt”. Both organizations remind the recent case of GOLOS (Voice in Russian) the first NGO charged under the law of “foreign agents” (an independent electoral watchdog that denounced irregularities in the two last elections) and the also recent raids into some 200 NGO offices in 50 regions under the same law. I already commented in other entry about this “foreign agent” law that force the workers of the NGO with foreign fundings to register under such a name that have reminiscences of a spy in the russian popular culture. But there is more: a law on Treason and Espionage that “can easily be used to prosecute Russian human rights defenders and civil society activists cooperating with international organizations”, an amendment that criminalize defamation and can go after legitimate criticism against the government and other measures on the limits of public demonstrations are examples of the situation. Another example is the trial today against Alexei Navalny, a russian opposition leader who led protests against President Vladimir Putin and exposed alleged corruption in his government through his blog. Now he in trial accused of corruption. Navalny insists the charges are an act of revenge intended to silence him, reports Associated Press.
Putin designed a system to perpetuate himself in power with the help of Medvedev. But he is loosing steam. He is not the Vladimir Putin who enchanted masses of young people on the streets any more. He sees demonstrations against him instead, and doesn’t have the huge difference of votes he once had to doesn’t worry about. If he wants to stay in a strong position of power has to take this kind of measures, but then the liberties and the rights of his people are in question and he is going backwards towards the Soviet-era style. A danger for the democracy, a very ugly image for his regime at home and in front of the world watching.