The sentencing of Ekaterina Vologzheninova for reposting materials against Russian aggression in Ukraine to 320 hours of labor is not only horrific given the reason for her prosecution and the way it was carried out but underscores five lessons the Kremlin is sending by its actions, according to Kseniya Kirillova.
In a commentary for Kasparov.ru, the US-based Russian writer lists them, although she suggests there are many other important lessons to be drawn from the Ekaterinburg trial. The most important lessons the trial offers are some the authorities may like and some they may very much fear:
- “Criticism of the authorities in Russia is officially a crime.” In the original list of charges, the authorities noted that Vologzheninova had displayed “a negative attitude ‘to the authorities in Russia, to the political course of contemporary Russia and to the president of Russia as the first person and embodiment of power in Russia.’” Kirillova does not that “the court excluded the accusations concerning Vladimir Putin personally from its sentence.”
- “Promoting dialogue, the exchange of opinions, is a no less terrible crime.” Seeking to convince others of your own point of view is a crime, unless your point of view is the same as that of the regime.
- “All citizens of Russia, or at a minimum Muscovites, are in the opinion of the FSB occupiers.” The logic of the FSB expert witness on the language of Vologzheninova’s posts leads one to conclude that in the opinion of the authorities, the Russian-language speakers of the DNR and LNR are a separate nation and that they are occupiers are “in the eyes of law enforcement synonyms.”
- “The entire proceeding shows that the authorities are entirely supporting and defending militants and terrorists” in the Donbas and will do whatever it takes to defend them from criticism as well as promoting their aims.
- “The case shows that one can forget about justice from the Russian criminal justice system.”
Despite these messages from the authorities, this case, Kirillova points out, provided some good news about Russia by showing “the unprecedented courage of the most ordinary Russians who have taken the risk of challenging the repressive system and openly speaking out against war directly in the halls of a court.”
“In truth,” she continues, that does more than could be achieved by any Peace March or meeting or picketing. It shows that “besides the ‘official’ Russia, which is false, harsh and illegal, there exist another Russia; sincere, noble and prepared for sacrifice.” The possibility that Russia will triumph is suggested by the heroism of Vologzheninova and her supporters.