Pavel Chikov, head of the Kazan-based Agora Human Rights Organization, says that after Vladimir Putin is re-elected, the Kremlin leader will neutralize the political and regional elites, pull out of the Council of Europe, restore the death penalty, and impose tight restrictions on anyone seeking to go abroad and the confiscation of their property.
In short, he argues, Putin will restore the Iron Curtain. That will also involve, he says, a ban on foreign media, withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights, and denunciation of numerous international treaties. In fact, he suggests, relations with some European countries may be so bad that missions will be closed.
With respect to Russia’s regions and republics, Chikov continues, Putin will oversee the seizure of control over all major enterprises and the “final neutralization of their political and national sovereignty.” He has already made a move in that direction in Daghestan and can be expected now to move against the leadership of Tatarstan.
Putin, in the Agora head’s view, will also move to “cleanse” the religious space of the country via “mass criminal trials” and the expulsion from the country “of all backers of non-traditional religions, be they the Tabligs, Nursis, and Hizbis of Islam, the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Christianity, or the Krishnaites, AUM, and yoga of Buddhism, as well as the Scientologists.”
Already next summer, Chikov says, Moscow will adopt “a package of new repressive laws and initiatives” and will impose a real, not symbolic jail sentence on Alexei Navalny and other opposition figures. Entrepreneurs independent of the Kremlin will face more harassment and trumped up criminal charges.
And Putin’s new term, the Agora activist continues, will also see the imposition of a Russian firewall on the Internet, the filtration of all content from abroad, and “the isolation of the Internet space of Russia.”
The human rights activist’s prognosis is far bleaker than those offered by many others, but it is not inconsistent with the direction Putin has been moving in over the course of the last several years. All of the things he projects may not happen, but they are certainly on what might be called “Putin’s wish list.”
As such, the Kremlin leader should be tracked especially closely now because what he will in fact do in 2018 is already being prepared by his Presidential Administration. Only vigilance and a willingness to stand up to and openly oppose him gives any hope for a freer and not more oppressive Russian future.
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