The Atlantic

Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent Is Working

A new law criminalizing “disrespect” for Russian society and institutions might mark the end of the country’s few remaining legal forms of protests.
Source: Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP / Getty

MOSCOW—Soon after the 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky criticized the Russian security services and blew himself up in October outside an office of the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, in the country’s far northwest, Svetlana Prokopyeva took to the airwaves.

Zhlobitsky was part of a generation that grew up entirely under Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said. Instead of protecting individual rights, she continued, the authorities were focused on suppressing freedom of expression. The judiciary, she added, had become a repressive system.

A couple of months later, Prokopyeva was made the , accused new rules that criminalize any “disrespect” for Russian society, the government, official symbols, the constitution, or any state body, as well as what the authorities deem to be “fake news.” Watchdogs fear that the laws will be used to stamp out the limited pockets of dissent here, drowning out what were previously legal forms of protest.

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