Russian anti-extremist legislation makes it possible to interpret the concept of extremism quite broadly, whereby it can include not only the acts based on hatred and enmity, etc., but also disagreement with the current political course, expressed in public form and giving space for different interpretations.
The recent years have seen an increased number of convicts on anti-extremist articles, yet the criteria for choosing a specific anti-extremist article are not always obvious. The criminal part of anti-extremist legislation is used, mostly, against representatives of nationalist organizations, radical Islamists, but the past few years have shown that criminal articles can be used against non-nationalistic political opposition, which manifested itself in the course of the conflict with Ukraine. In addition, the administrative part of the anti-extremist legislation can also successfully serve as a tool for ousting political activists from action: those convicted under these articles have restrictions in terms of participation in elections, organization of mass events.
In general, actions classified as extremism represent a whole conglomeration of diverse socio-political and socio-cultural practices. Besides, law enforcers can arbitrarily include in this conglomerate actions by those who disagree with the political course due to broad interpretations that are currently allowed by Russian legislation.
Changes in law enforcement practice often follow a change in the political situation. At different times much emphasis has always been placed on persecution of the nationalist opposition, pro-Ukrainian activists, various religious organizations. For example, in 2014–2016 years there was a noticeable wave of persecution against those who disagreed with Russia’s policy in Ukraine and in the Crimea.
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