Leonid Razvozzhayev, an opposition organizer who was kidnapped and returned to Moscow after he sought asylum in Ukraine, was given permission to get married in jail — perhaps because he is not expected to get out soon. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted of planning riots.
And Putin signed not one, but two laws aimed at gays.
By week’s end, it was clear to anyone who held out hope to the contrary that the future here looks more and more repressive. The authorities appeared intent on using all their resources — police, courts, legislature and media — to pursue that end and silence dissent for years to come.
The courts have become the most important tool of repression, said Lilia Shevtsova, head of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, especially since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012.
“We’re seeing the logic of the new regime,” Shevtsova said, “which I would say is based on the new principle of absolute loyalty. You cannot doubt. You cannot criticize, even softly. You need to obey totally.”
The middle-of-the-night arrest last week of Yaroslavl Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov reinforced the message, she said.
The former member of the dominant United Russia party was elected last year as the city’s mayor. In local elections this fall, he was preparing to support candidates from a new party started by billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Then, masked men in camouflage hauled him into headquarters, where he was accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes. In a matter of hours, close associates accepted plea bargains and agreed to testify against him. A judge ordered him behind bars until Sept. 2.
Television reports repeatedly showed stacks of bank notes police said they found in his apartment, and LifeNews, a channel with connections to Russia’s security forces, broadcast a video that it said showed Urlashov sitting in a restaurant taking a bribe delivered in a folded newspaper. The man’s face was not clearly visible — nor was any money.
On Wednesday, a prosecutor in Moscow asked a court to declare Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pretrial detention in 2009, guilty of tax evasion, along with his client, William Browder, who lives in London.
Magnitsky was arrested after accusing police and tax officials of stealing $230 million in a fraudulent tax return scheme using documents taken from Browder’s Hermitage Capital investment firm. The United States last year passed a law in Magnitsky’s memory imposing financial and visa sanctions on Russians associated with his case and other human rights abuses. No one has been held accountable in his death.