Political violence in present-day Russia: attacks on the opposition

 

Attacks on the opposition have become a characteristic feature of Russian political life. CEPR examined 238 cases of aggression and attacks for political reasons in 2012–2016. Since 2014 there has been an increase in the number of such cases.

Most of the attacks are related to the viewpoints of the victims (protests or deviations from the ideological mainstream). A significant proportion of cases are related to the elections and specific problems of a local nature (attacks on historic preservation activists, environmentalists, those who investigate cases of corruption among local officials).

The recent years have seen a continued increase of attacks on oppositionists by organizations claiming loyalty to the current government and adherence to the ultra-conservative views. There are also several cases associated with the activities of Orthodox activists.

The victims of the attacks are mostly “average” oppositionists who are not widely known at the federal level. Despite a significant share of the attacks taking place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, most of the cases of aggression occur in the regions. Relatively safe activities are numerous concerted protest actions taking place in Moscow. The most dangerous activity, on the contrary, is the fight against local authorities and related entrepreneurs with the aim of solving specific problems on the ground.

As for the government’s reaction to political violence, several problems have been noted:

– law enforcement and investigative agencies strive to depoliticize the problem and to classify attacks without taking into account the motives of hatred for political reasons;

– often the principle of equality of citizens before the law is not observed, and law enforcers turn a blind eye to obvious aggression against the oppositionists and, even when the opposition acts as an obvious victim, do not rush to protect the victims and punish the attackers;

– it can be said that violence expands its permissible limits because the government tacitly approves of aggressive actions against the opposition (or, at least, does not effectuate proper prosecution and punishment of the aggressors);

– the problem is not adequately covered in the media; it is hushed up, especially when some little-known oppositionists are attacked.

 

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