The world has watched as Russian President Vladimir Putin destroys the fledgling democracy movement in Russia and reinstates authoritarian government to that nation. While actively (and admittedly) crafting a cult of personality around manufactured Superhuman exploits, Putin has striven to reinstate the oppressive laws from the Soviet era. In the face of continuing protests, Putin appears intent to show that he can and will do anything he wants with critics. This month his underlings arrested the best known protest organizer Sergei Udaltsov while his government has shutdown international human rights organizations and NGOs. At the same time, his government has passed a new law in the lower house of the Duma to radically expand the definition of treason in Russia. Udaltsov led the largest protests against Putin as part of a campaign of “Russia Without Putin.”
Russian prosecutors used a documentary on a pro-Kremlin TV channel to accuse Sergei Udaltsov of plotting “mass disorder.” The Putin government used the case as an excuse to search the homes of critics — a classic Soviet era tactic.
The police say that the documentary showed that Udaltsov received money and orders from an ally of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to cause unrest in Russia.
Police say that they suspect Uadltsov and his associates of planning “terrorist acts” in Russia. It is a telling allegation since the Putin government has moved to radically expand the definition of treason in Russia.
The Putin government issued a statement that is clearly designed to chill anyone who joins the anti-Putin protests: “Those who think they can with impunity organize riots, plan and prepare terrorist attacks and other acts that threaten the lives and health of Russians, you underestimate the Russian special services’ professionalism.”
This menacing message was amplified by the new legislation. The law passed in the lower house makes it treason not only to pass on state secrets but receiving, transmitting or publicizing such information. That would bring protesters and journalists within the scope of the law in publicizing crackdowns by Putin and human rights abuses. It will be considered treason to reveal such information to international organizations, which have been the target of much of the crackdown by Putin who is embarrassed by the continuing international criticism of his authoritarian inclinations.
The law also lowers the standard to remove the requirement that prosecutors show “hostile intent.” Now all that is required is that the Putin government show a “threat to state security,” which they largely define.