Russia treats opposition as foreign agents

By Slava Tsukerman

A law that brands foreign-funded  Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as “foreign agents” was passed by the Russian Parliament  State Duma this summer.  NGOs failing to abide by the law now are punishable by hefty fines or jail time.

Critics have argued that the term “foreign agent” implies spying for a foreign government and would harm the image of members of the opposition and human rights and environmental groups working in Russia.

It is not a secret that Russian business people who support political opposition financially are risking losing their businesses and even their freedom, so opposition is forced to search for financing elsewhere.

This month Russian State controlled NTV channel had broadcast a documentary “Anatomy of a Protest 2”, which portrayed opposition leaders as foreign agents plotting revolution. The documentary included footage allegedly showing prominent members of the opposition planning mass riots in Russia in company with Georgian politician Givi Targamadze, who was promising them financial help. (Georgia is considered to be an American satellite, acting by an American order). The authenticity of the footage is extremely questionable and most of accusations in the film are made just by the narration, not supported by the content of the footage itself.

Nevertheless the opposition activists shown in the film are now under a severe attack of Russian law enforcement agencies. Acusations mostly based on the documentary re considered a proof of their guilt.

Here the main details of the situation:

A couple of the New York Times articles show the further development of the events:

The democratic press and Internet present a lot of documents proving that all the allegations of the opposition leaders are false. But pro–Putin officials completely disregard these publications. Here is a couple of characteristic quotes:

Irina Yarovaya, head of the State Duma Committee on security:

“These members of the opposition are people who, apparently, ready to commit any crimes for money. They represent a threat to the security of the life and health of the citizens of Russia and, judging by the movie, are no different from terrorists and criminals and are fed from the same hand. Therefore, their activities should be given legal assessment. And the sooner the better.”

Sergei Zheleznyak, first Deputy Secretary of the Bureau of General Council of United Russia party:

“I believe that based on the facts, which were reflected in the film, a very thorough investigation should be made because we are talking about serious criminal offences. I urgently ask law enforcement agencies to ensure that they have checked all the material presented in the film, and the oppositioners shown in the film were not allowed to flee the country. The degree of cynicism with which these scoundrels are ready to trade human lives, just to be fawned upon by their foreign sponsors, is amazing.”

According to the newest poll, Russian citizens have sharply negative attitude to such words as “anti-Soviet” (66%), “foreign agent” (62%), NATO (61%), “capitalism” (51%), United States (46%).

45% of respondents have positive atitude to the noun “communism”.

If a similar sociological study on this topic were openly held in the Soviet Union on this topic, it is very likely that the results would largely be the same.