We just received an email notice with a link over to the blog of Oleg Kozlovsky, a prominent and impressive youth leader in the opposition, who has announced that the FSB has refused to renew his passport. The authorities have invented a transparently fraudulent pretext to deny Kozlovsky the right to travel freely – they say they need to confirm whether or not he had access to “state secrets” during his punitive conscription to the military (Grigory Pasko has written extensively on the subject).
This kind of treatment by the government of an innocent citizen, this punishment of political conscience and peaceful civic activism, is a deplorable violation of basic liberties as guaranteed under the constitution. It also betrays the intolerable fear the current leadership has for the existence of ideas which challenge their position. From Kozlovsky:
When one speaks of advantages of the Putin’s regime over the Soviet system, there usually is one achievement that is never disputed. It is the freedom of travel abroad. In the USSR, very few people were able to visit the Soviet Bloc countries, and only a tiny minority could see the “capitalist world.” But after the USSR collapsed, Russia opened its borders, removed numerous obstacles for international travel, and millions of Russians could travel the world. After Putin came to power most of the freedoms we had enjoyed were reduced or eliminated, but this one was left almost untouched.
For me, this freedom seems to be over. (…)
FSB is violating the law, which clearly says that a passport has to be issued within a month (almost two months passed already). I have filed a complaint to the prosecutor, but officials say, “You can’t beat FSB, they will always win.” True, FSB as a KGB successor consider themselves above the law and never mind to violate it in their interests. But I will use any legal methods and will eventually make them obey the law.