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Russia resembles a cemetery through which an armed man is walking, Martynov says.

A quiescence has descended over Russia with only a month to go before the Duma elections, Kirill Martynov says. “No one is thinking about the protest meetings which have accompanied Russia the last two years. The political opposition is defeated.” And independent media have been reduced to a minimum.

The political editor of Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta says that young Russians have now been confronted with a brutal choice: they can either conform as the regime wants or they can choose to emigrate. The third option is to act and be punished. Only a few of them will do that.

The Russian intelligentsia has been frightened into self-censorship, and the state’s propaganda machine, generously funded by the Kremlin, is using its monopoly position to dominate the thinking of the population, Martynov continues. “It might seem that in this situation the time had come for a long-awaited appeasement.”

Related: Putin better reflects underlying Russian values than does the opposition and his system will thus outlast both, Pastukhov says

“The Kremlin has exited from the crisis connected with the return of [Alexei] Navalny to Russia, and the goals of terror have been achieved in that all who could be frightened have been,” the editor says. “However, persecution of ‘new dissidents’ continue even though there is no practical sense in this.”

As so often in history, “the persecution of political opponents at the end of the summer of 2021 has been transformed from an instrument in the hands of the Russian powers that be into a process intrinsic in itself and one by the way extraordinarily profitable for those who carry it out.”

In short, Martynov says, while the powers have won “a crushing victory over society, the repressions are continuing – simply because they can.” They don’t serve any broader purpose than the acting out of the grudges some people hold about others. In the past, such people had to restrain themselves unless give the order. Now, their hands have been untied and they can act.

“Our societal stability ever more recalls a cemetery through which an armed man is walking.” He is lonely, the editor continues, and soon he won’t have anyone else in the political system to punish. When that happens, this armed man, the state machine, will seek out new victims from among those “who have nothing to do with politics.”

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