Commentary: The Yashin case – the price of a word in Russia is now equal to the price of action | Comments from DW Reviewers and Guest Writers | DW

Persecution of opposition leader Ilya Yashin by the authorities unfolds according to the scenario that we have already seen in the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza. Administrative arrest for a far-fetched reason, criminal charges brought while the politician is in a special detention center, arrest, pre-trial detention center. Another scenario that we have already seen and that could be repeated with Yashin is a show trial, as in the case of Alexei Gorinov. The process is quite fast, the sentence is unthinkable in its severity.

What were you waiting for?

Initiation of a criminal case against Ilya Yashin it was a matter of time. This predictability both frightens and demonstrates the general state of the political regime in Russia. Repressions have become a backdrop, and a politician who openly and consistently criticizes the authorities becomes a target for the Investigative Committee, the prosecutor’s office or a group of informers.

Tatiana Felgenhauer

Tatiana Felgenhauer

The fact that Yashin remained at large for almost five months after the start of the war in Ukraine even surprised some commentators. This is an absolutely abnormal state of society when an opposition politician is literally asked: why haven’t you been imprisoned until now? And when he is arrested, the next question is: what did he want if he talked so much about the war?

This is the whole essence of Putin’s style of management: a political opponent who remains at large causes surprise (if not suspicion), but he who is arrested does not.

Did you have to leave?

Since the appearance in Russia of the articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses and the Criminal Code, which are designed to introduce real military censorship, the main question remains – to leave the country or stay? Civic activists, politicians, journalists, lawyersbut simply any citizens who do not want to silently observe Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, each respond to it in their own way.

Ilya Yashina also answered this question more than once: his voters are in Russia, and he will stay with them. Having received a virtual ban on political activity, Yashin essentially turned into a media named after himself. His YouTube channel quickly gained more than a million subscribers, and videos in which the politician regularly criticized the authorities were perfectly distributed on the Web.

In conditions of a total cleansing of the media space, such a channel for disseminating information about what is happening in the war is an additional irritant for the Kremlin. Nevertheless, Ilya Yashin continued to stay in the country, although both the Kara-Murza case and the Gorinov case were direct signals – leave. Apparently, this is the path of modern Russian politicians: either to emigrate or to a colony.

Who is next?

Opposition politicians remaining at large in Russia will run out pretty quickly at this rate. Cases of dissemination of “fake” about Russian army and other discredits will continue to be raised against everyone who is not silent. Obviously, Gorinov’s verdict will become a model for further trials, and the system will quickly move from administrative to criminal cases.

The price of a word in Russia is now equal to the price of an action. If earlier you could be imprisoned for going out into the street, now – just because you are not silent. It seems that the effectiveness of propaganda (it cannot be denied) is being questioned by the authorities themselves, so the Kremlin is reinforcing the fight against the truth with ever-wider repressions. Perhaps this is not a doubt, but an increase in the overall impact on society.

Nevertheless, Ilya Yashin is unlikely to be the loser in this fight. The voice of a politician who is punished for active anti-war stancewill be heard one way or another. The only question is, who will listen to this voice?

Posted by Tatiana Felgenhauer, DW columnist. Telegram: @tanya_fTwitter: @t_felg

The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the Russian editors and Deutsche Welle in general.

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