Grigory Pasko: Interview with Oleg Kozlovsky

[please see yesterday’s post featuring a by-lined article by Oleg Kozlovsky of Oborona.] The power isn’t prepared for mass repressions. For now… an interview with the leader of the opposition movement «Oborona», Oleg Kozlovsky By Grigory Pasko, journalist kozlovsky_sps.jpg Oleg Kozlovsky (photo from SPS party website) How do you assess the results of the recent elections and what is going to take place with the upcoming elections? It would not be right to call what took place “elections”, because the word itself presupposes the existence of some kind of alternatives [The Russian word for elections, “vybory”, literally means “choices”—Trans.]. But here, the results were known and even announced in advance and all that was left was the little matter of making sure that the results of the voting “fit the answer”.

This was done in the most brazen and shameless methods; the scales of the falsifications exceeded our most audacious expectations. Even in Moscow – where because of the concentration of journalists, observers, and ordinary educated people, everything has always taken place quietly and sufficiently cleanly before – this time the machinations were simply ubiquitous. After this, you don’t have to be surprised by either the 99% turnout and the voting for «United Russia» in Chechnya, or the «unanimous» voting for it in Khabezsky Rayon of Karachayevo-Cherkessia [an ethnic Republic in the Caucasus, near Chechnya—Trans.], or other marvels of vote-tallying.On the other hand, there is also a positive aspect to what took place. Millions of people have now understood what kinds of methods today’s power operates with, how it ensures that infamous “stability”. And the fact that the entire administrative resource was working for «United Russia», de facto headed by Putin, has shattered the faith in the legitimacy of the parliament, the president, and the entire ruling establishment. And this is an essential step on the path to regime change in our country.At the presidential elections, this same scheme will probably be tested. That same administrative resource, pressure on voters and opponents, falsifications, black PR and “special operations”. The power is setting itself the task of victory in the first round, although this time they hardly need to be setting any records. After all, Putin wants to maintain his influence after the elections as well, and that means that he doesn’t need excessive strengthening of Medvedev. An additional factor is the confrontation between the Kremlin groupings. Considering that the so-called “siloviki” have in essence found themselves not in the driver’s seat, this could provoke a serious conflict between them. And as to what the Russian siloviki structures are capable of, the opposition knows only too well.Your assessment of the state of the opposition: the possibility of advancing a single united candidate; the joining of forces on the basis of a single party; the preparation of a single programme, and so on.The situation with the candidates for president from the opposition has now unexpectedly changed for the better. Moreover, by an ironic twist of fate, this took place thanks to the deterioration of matters within the opposition itself. Thus, after the failure in the elections, Grigory Yavlinsky decided to abandon the struggle for the presidential post. Boris Nemtsov, judging by his announcements, is ready to withdraw his candidacy in favor of Kasyanov. Garry Kasparov wasn’t able to conduct a meeting of the initiative group for the advancement of him for the presidency: at the last moment, they refused to provide a facility. Vladimir Bukovsky is not likely to be registered due to his possession of British citizenship, and besides, he won’t find the money for the collection of signatures. Vladimir Ryzhkov likewise is not intending to advance himself for president. As a result, only Mikhail Kasyanov has any chance (although far from 100%) of getting registered. So it’s quite likely that he will become the only candidate for president from the opposition.But whether or not he will become the single united candidate isn’t clear. «The Other Russia», «Yabloko», SPS, and Bukovsky have not yet expressed their attitude towards the candidacy of Kasyanov. Personal contradictions and “black spots” in the biography of the ex-premier may hinder this.As concerns the creation of a single opposition party, I don’t believe that this is possible any time in the near future. First of all, the contradictions between the various opposition organizations remain huge. They are gradually succeeding in learning how to cooperate, but there is still a long road ahead. And few are ready to unite into a single rigid structure, such as a party is. Nor has anybody removed the personal contradictions between the leaders of the political organizations, and their ambitions. In addition to this, the creation of a party now has been complicated so much that to do this without the approval of the Kremlin (let alone with its active counteraction) is in practice impossible.Nor do I think that there is any need to create a single opposition party right now. It is more realistic to unite into a coalition of different organizations. This could be «The Other Russia» or something new. Such a “soft” association allows you to not intensify the contradictions between the movements and at the same time to make use of their common resources to achieve victory. By the way, even here there is still a lot that needs to be done in order for such a coalition to come about.Surveillance of activists of the opposition forces, intimidation, placement in psychiatric hospitals – is this a manifestation of the weakness of the regime or, on the contrary, its strength, as in “we can do anything we want”?As usual, you’ve got both the one and the other here. Violence, as is known, is the last resort of the weak. It therefore comes as no surprise that today’s power is applying ever harsher methods against the opposition, not being in any state to rebut its opponents. The same methods as were used in the old Soviet times are being used, plus to them are added new ones, which have appeared during the course of the commercial/gangster confrontations of recent years.By the way, it is characteristic that they’re using the UBOP [Administration for the Struggle with Organized Crome] more and more actively against the opposition these days — a structure that is called upon to fight criminal groupings. This agency is considered to be one of the most “cold-blooded” [otmorozhenny] of all the law-enforcement organs; after all, they’re accustomed to dealing with tough gangsters, and they use the appropriate methods.A new phenomenon in the actions of the power –prohibition on leaving the RF (the wife of United Civic Front leader Garry Kasparov, Russian youth movement leader Andrey Sidelnikov) and prohibition on entering the RF (The New Times journalist Natalia Morari) – your assessment of these facts.What we’re seeing here is a very vivid manifestation of the paranoia that reigns in the ruling circles. It is known that neither Garry Kasparov’s wife, nor Andrey Sidelnikov present any sort of real threat to the regime. Likewise Natalia Morari was not such a great enemy of the Kremlin for them – contrary to all laws and just plain common sense – to send her out of Russia, where she has been living and working for many years.In general, it looks like the leadership of the special services has a poor understanding of whom it is dealing with and of what methods are effective. Nor is there a unified coordination of this struggle: you’ve got the FSB, the UBOP, the police, the local administration, etc., etc. all fighting with dissention. The “vertical of power” has turned out to be just a fiction here as well. There was some colonel of the police who complained in April during the time of the March of Those Who Disagree that “We are completely unprepared for mass repressions”. He was absolutely right.The power tried out the concept of locking people up in jail on the members of the NBP [National-Bolshevik Party]. Society, on the whole, kept silent. Doesn’t it seem to you that they will now be locking up oppositioneers in the same way? (Kasparov’s five days were just a prelude to a long totalitarian symphony of repressions). And imprisonment suddenly doesn’t even seem that bad, when you consider that they can kill you, like they did «The Other Russia» activist Yuri Chervochkin…I think that administrative arrests will indeed now enter into mass practice. Until now, they were applied in Russia very rarely, but the bad example of neighboring Belarus is contagious. There, they have been giving people «24 hours» for a long time already simply for participation in unsanctioned events (and the only thing they sanction there are pro-presidential speeches). For now, you still can’t do that here by law, but the bureaucrats have found a way to get around such an annoying oversight: nowadays, they very often write about participants in actions that they supposedly “did not comply with the demands of employees of the police”. Now this is already punishable by arrest, and in November I, along with Kasparov, Averin (Limonov’s press secretary), and another eight participants in a March of Those Who Disagree, got to see how this works.By the way, against the background of the relative softening of Lukashenka’s regime, the Russian regime is becoming the harshest in Europe. Even the hotheads from the Belarusian opposition now prefer to come to Russia for Marches of Those Who Disagree, and not the other way around, as it used to be before. So in fact, the “Lukashization” of Russia is complete; the only role models left to emulate are Turkmenistan and North Korea.