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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
April 21, 2017

Publication: Windows on Eurasia
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Putin Follows Hitler and Stalin in Seeking to Repress Jehovah’s Witnesses

Staunton, VA, April 21, 2017 -  In declaring the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization, Vladimir Putin’s regime is following in the steps of Hitler and Stalin both of whom sought to extirpate this religious group. Neither was successful, and Putin is unlikely to be either. But his moves against it represent another attack on religious freedom and freedom in general in Russia. 

On April 20, the Russian Supreme Court declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization on the basis of a complaint by the justice ministry, banned its continued functioning on the territory of the Russian Federation and transferred all the property of the religious organization to the state. 

In Russia today, this could not have happened without the approval of Vladimir Putin and so he must be held accountable for an action that echoes the efforts of earlier dictators to wipe out the Jehovah’s Witnesses, efforts that not only have been ineffectual – the Witnesses have simply gone underground – but have been denounced as a threat to the freedom of all. 

Following the Russian court’s decision, numerous Russian commentators pointed out both the absurdity of its reasoning, the near certainty that the decision won’t end the activities of the Witnesses, but the equal certainty that Moscow’s moves against them presage further moves against other religious and civic groups. 

Yegor Sedov pointedly entitled his commentary, “Those Hitler Repressed Have Been Declared Extremists in Russia,” and suggested those behind the case in Russia were behaving in exactly the same way the Nazis did. At the same time, he said, the new ban is unlikely to stop the 175,000 Witnesses in Russia.

Other experts on religious affairs agreed, pointing out that the Witnesses had learned how to work under repressive regimes in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and would do the same now under Putin.

And still a third group – Lev Levinson is emblematic of its position – argued that Russians must see the attack on the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an attack on all of them because without freedom of conscience and religious belief, there is no religious freedom and consequently no freedom in general.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Kremlin Sees No Violation of Human Rights in Chechnya

Staunton, VA, April 21, 2017 - The Kremlin “doesn’t see any reason not to trust” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s assertion that there has been no persecution of sexual minorities or other violations of human rights in his republic, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, given the “anonymous” sources of alternative views. 

“Unfortunately or happily up to now there have not been any specific confirmations” of the charges made by the media against Chechnya. Peskov added that the Kremlin “doesn’t know any other means of defending oneself besides appeals to law-enforcement organs,” something the supposed victims in Chechnya did not do. 

He continued: “we know that when the law is violated, a citizen goes and complains to the police and the media … But there are no such people” in this case, and that suggests that these are “some kind of phantom complaints” rather than genuine ones. 

When Peskov was asked to comment on the statements of media outlets that those who reported being victimized in Chechnya were afraid to come forward, Peskov responded with the following words: They how then can one defend them or check the situation? … Why are they afraid. Are they afraid no one will defend them? This too is untrue.” 

He pointed out that Russian ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova had already looked into the situation and been unable to confirm any of the claims of abuse. And he reported that Kadyrov had told Putin that Chechens were angry about such “slander” and “will struggle with [it] within the law,” something the Kremlin leader indicated he approved. 

Peskov’s words undoubtedly reflect Putin’s thinking, and they merit attention for three reasons. First, they are yet another indication that the Kremlin isn’t willing or perhaps able to challenge Kadyrov even when as in this case there is clear evidence that he is violating Russian laws. 

Second, Peskov’s remarks are yet another indication of the way in which Putin defines “human rights,” not as something that must be defended at all times and in all places but as an elastic concept to be supported or not depending on political utility and redefined at will to serve the Kremlin’s purposes. 

And third, it shows a dangerous tendency to dismiss any reports based on anonymous sources, even when anyone who did come forward and identify himself or herself would be at risk of reprisal legal or otherwise from the powers that be. That suggests that the Kremlin may be ready to invoke this “standard” against media outlets in Moscow with regard to Chechnya. 

But such Kremlin attitudes have consequences far beyond Chechnya, and this week the Presidential Administration clearly served notice of that fact: it put in charge of supervising regional affairs Yaroslav Zamychkin, an official who comes from Chechnya.


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