The meaning of extremism in Russia has expanded to include basic forms of dissent, according to Representative Evgeny Arkhipov of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights.
In a press release on Monday, Arkhipov stated that the news of a Russian telecommunications firm banning access to opposition websites was evidence of a growing trend in the country to persecute dissident activism as extremism.
“In this case, the actions of the authorities have once again confirmed that the country and political system are striving towards totalitarianism,” the lawyer asserted. “This tendency will continue down the road, with tougher methods in the battle against dissent and civil opposition movement and with the suppression of the basic rights and freedoms of citizens.”
The statement comes after Friday’s announcement by Corbina, one of Russia’s largest telecommunications providers and more commonly known under the brand name Beeline, that it was blocking access to the opposition websites Nazbol.ru and Limonov2012.ru due to “orders from above.”
The two websites are run by the banned National Bolshevik Party, whose leader, Eduard Limonov, has been integral in organizing the Strategy 31 series of protests in defense of the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.
Editors of the websites believe that Corbina’s ban speaks directly to the success of the rallies, which have recently gained a significant increase in both participation and international attention due to the brutality with which they have been suppressed by police.
Arkhipov was dismal in his prediction of the consequences of such persecution. “[Russians] are going to become witnesses to political persecution, through persecution against opposition leaders and civic activists, and through groundless detentions and political murders.”
Russian human rights advocates and opposition activists have long maintained that legislation from 2002 defining extremism is uselessly vague, and has given the authorities free reign to arrest anyone who they deem to be undesirable to the state. The notorious Center for Extremism Prevention of the Russian Interior Ministry, known as Center “E,” has been a source of particular concern, accused by Amnesty International of torturing criminal suspects to extract confessions. Additionally, Russia came under criticism last month in a United Nations report for its continued use of secret prisons to illegally detain political oppositionists and people blamed for “extremist” activity.