Repression intensifies as Russia prepares to mobilise fresh troops for the war in Ukraine, explains Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Boris Kagarlitzky speaking at Moscow rally in March 2013. Photo: Bogomolov.PL

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Repression is intensifying in Russia. On Tuesday 25 July, news filtered through to international media that Boris Kagarlitsky, a well-known academic, socialist and anti-war voice, had been detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

Charged with ‘justifying terrorism’, Kagarlitsky has reportedly been moved from Moscow to the more remote Komi region where he will be held by the local FSB until a court hears the case on Thursday. Another activist, Alexander Archagov, a psychologist, has also been detained in relation to the case.

It is unclear on what the charges rest, but the arrests come amid news that the Russian parliament backed legislation raising the maximum age of conscription and cracking down on draft-dodging, as rumours swirl of a renewed military mobilisation.

Such measures by the Russian government betray a deep nervousness about the popularity of its war effort. Kagarlitsky is a prominent figure in Russia, having been a leftist dissident during the Soviet era. He was briefly arrested under Leonid Brezhnev in 1982 for publishing an oppositional left-wing journal.

Later, while serving on Moscow’s City Soviet, he was briefly arrested again, now under supposed liberal-democrat Boris Yeltsin, for opposing the latter’s unconstitutional attempts at dissolving the Soviet-era parliament, which ended in Yeltsin’s use of the army against the defiant legislature in 1993.

By the mid-1990s, Kagarlitsky had earned a doctorate and wrote extensively on Russian history and politics. He was the director of the left-wing Institute of Globalisation Studies and Social Movements (IGSO) and has most recently been lecturer at the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences.

His oppositional activity under Vladimir Putin has now led to his latest arrest. It was clear that trouble was brewing as he had already in May been placed on the Orwellian register of foreign agents.

But Kagarlitsky was not cowed. His recent analysis of the Wagner coup, with its unflattering depiction of Russian ruling circles, would have ruffled feathers. Kagarlitsky argued that the mafia-style deals cut to end the aborted coup showed even to the supporters of President Putin and Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin that their leaders were indecisive and weak.

Such searing criticism would not be tolerated by a regime that has tried desperately to keep its population inoculated from the regime’s war in Ukraine. After all, imperialist states brook no criticism. Witness the treatment of Wikileaks founder and whistleblower Julian Assange, who languishes in a UK prison waiting for deportation to the US, for, among other misdemeanours, exposing Western war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kagarlitsky is being punished for doing the duty of every socialist, maintaining that the main enemy of working people is at home. We must demand his release, but we must also redouble our own efforts to ensure that our governments stop pursuing a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and instead press for a negotiated resolution to the conflict.

27 Jul 2023 by Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

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