In recent months, Violetta Grudina has been attacked, fined and shot in the window of her apartment with what appears to be a pump rifle.
Someone broke his office, painted swastikas on the walls, and damaged furniture. His home address was advertised in cursed leaflets.
“In our quiet northern town, a non-human-group has emerged to attract our children to homosexuality and other pornography,” said her neighbor, who received the anonymous leaflet.
The “quiet city” is the town of Murmansk in the Arctic city of Grudina, a Barents seaport near Norway, and the “inhumane” are his colleagues who support prison opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
In the four days since April, Grudina, head of the Murmansk branch of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, has been arrested five times since 2014.
He said police have refused to investigate the attack and have not yet done anything about other incidents.
At the time of publication, the Murmansk police press service did not respond to requests for comment from Al Jazeera.
‘I am getting angry’
Grudina claimed that local authorities had originally planned a campaign of intimidation to prevent him from resisting a pro-Kremlin candidate in the upcoming municipal elections.
But he is underestimated.
“It all makes me laugh, it makes me angry. I am full of useful anger to continue working, ”the 31-year-old rights lawyer told Al Jazeera.
He believes he is the victim of a new and aggressive wave of political sanctions imposed by the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has led to widespread pressure on a growing number of critics, ranging from the persecution of elected opponents.
Gennady Goodkov, an exiled opposition leader and former member of parliament from the State Duma, told Al Jazeera at a lower house of the Russian parliament that “today the construction of Neil-Stalinism with Putin is being done in Russia.
“So far, the only difference between Stalin’s regime is that there are no large-scale prisons in Gulag and no large-scale executions without trial. Everything else has been copied after Stalin’s model. ”
At the height of Stalin’s “Great Terror” in the late 1930s, millions of people were imprisoned and thousands of people were executed, including investigators and intelligence officers who first arrested and executed.
“There has not been such a big refinement since Stalin’s time,” prison worker Andrei Borovicov, a Navalny supporter from the northern city of Arkhangelsk, told Severial.rk, a project of the US-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Network, in mid-April.
“The difference is that people were shot and killed at the time, and now they’re in prison,” he was quoted as saying.
A court on Thursday sentenced Borovichkov to two and a half years in prison for “promoting pornography.”
In 2014, he posted a link to a censored video of the German heavy metal band Ramstein that was not banned in Russia.
‘Trying to Intimidate’ Opponents
Other observers, however, disagree with the Stalinist comparison, saying that the new wave of arrests and repressive legislation stemmed from multi-party political change.
Putin began it last year after ousting one of his longtime prime ministers, Dmitry Medvedev, as one-time president and a cautious liberal, replacing him with a technocratic tax official. Mikhail Mishustin.
“No, these are not mass repression,” said Pavel Luzin, a Russia-based analyst at the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based theme-tank.
“The whole mass of this state apparatus, hundreds and thousands of purposeless unnecessary people, who are incapable of producing anything, pressurize the most outstanding opponents of the state system, trying to intimidate others.”
Putin continued to oppose his regime, now in its third decade
His government has enacted laws to complicate media freedom and the registration of opposition parties. The Kremlin has branded with Western-funded NGOs Assisting victims of HIV / AIDS and domestic violence, As “foreign agent”
Several prominent critics, including investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, rights advocate Natalia Estemirova and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, were killed during Putin’s presidency and hundreds of activists were detained.
But now many more people are facing stress and imprisonment, and things are happening at a very bad pace.
Permanent Judge Viktor Kudryavsev, a 78-year-old physicist accused of high treason, died of cancer on April 30, 14 months after he provided information about Russia’s hypersonic weapons to “foreign intelligence agencies”.
Kudryvatsev’s death “gave an example of how Russian intelligence agencies killed science in Russia. Literally, “his lawyer Ivan Pavlov, who called the allegations against his client” unreasonable “and” fabricated, “wrote on Facebook.
Within hours, Pavlov himself was behind bars.
His Moscow hotel room was searched at 6 a.m. the next day and he was detained “for disclosing details of an ongoing investigation,” his firm Team 29 said.
At the same time, police searched Pavlov’s apartment in St. Petersburg and entered his colleague’s apartment, it says.
Dozens of prominent lawyers, writers and journalists signed an open letter declaring their detentions and investigations.
“Ivan Pavlov’s torture, the confiscation of confidential attorney dossiers, is a threat not only to Pavlov, but to the entire community of lawyers,” they wrote in a letter released Monday.
‘Impossible to work in such a situation’
Pavlov’s clients include Navalny’s foundation, Which has 40 branches all over Russia.
On Friday, Russia’s financial watchdog Rosfimonnitring, Blacklisted It is an organization involved in “terrorism and extremism”.
“Under the guise of liberal slogans, these organizations are busy creating conditions to destabilize the social and socio-political situation,” Moscow prosecutors said in a statement sent to the court, adding that May 1 could ban the network of regional offices in Navalny.
The pro-Kremlin voice justifies the pressure on Navalny’s activities and accuses the network of working with Western intelligence agencies.
Sergei Markov, a former lawyer, told a Moscow radio station on April 26 that “the government’s response to the Navalny authorities’ aggressive, aggressive attacks – the intelligence agencies of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.”
If banned, Navalny’s base would be listed next to al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIS) and hundreds of its employees could face up to ten years in prison.
Thousands of supporters and donors could face up to eight years in prison for “financing extremism.”
In a YouTube video on Thursday announcing the closure of the network’s 40 offices, Navalny’s colleague Leonid Volkov said, “We must be honest – it is impossible to work in such a situation.”
Is apparent cleansing a sign of the Kremlin’s weakness?
Grudina, a Murmansk activist, believes there is a real fear of political competition and transparency.
“The biggest fear of Vladimir Putin is that people are running in the streets,” he said.