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Valery Borshchev: 'We’re going back to 1937.' About the alleged discovery of opposition training camps

posted 27 Nov 2019, 12:51 by Translation Service   [ updated 27 Nov 2019, 13:10 ]
19 November 2019

An interview with Valery Borshchev, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: NSN]

Foreign-funded “camps” for training organisers of protest actions have allegedly been discovered in a number of Russia’s regions, members of the parliamentary commission on investigation of foreign interference in Russia’s domestic affairs have announced. They also took the initiative at the legislative level to introduce a special criminal punishment for those who have been trained there and taken part in the organisation of rallies.

The human rights defender and Moscow Helsinki Group co-chair, Valery Borshchev in a conversation with the National News Service stated that he does not believe these kind of “camps” exist, and he equated discussions about this to attempts to return Russia to the era of Stalin’s repression.

“This is a general tendency towards a return to the Stalin era, when they discovered 'enemies of the people,' said that they were connected with foreign governments of one kind or another, and accused them of espionage and treason. None of this was true but they killed them all the same. It is a convenient method to depict critics and opponents of the regime as traitors to attract support from some parts of the population. Of course, I have not heard of any camps, nor seen any, nor can I even imagine their existence in any way at all, even on a virtual level,” said Borshchev.

A member of the parliamentary commission said that the term “camps” includes virtual platforms where a concentration of “protest ideas” expressed, particularly in social networks. At the same time, Valery Borshchev expressed the view that if there were “camps” for training the organisers of protest events, then they would be taught many useful things.

“I note that protests are held by a number of organisations, applications are also submitted by various different organisations, and there is no single centre here," Borshchev explained. "Depending on the situation, various numbers of people take part. For example, there was the 'Moscow case.' Sixty thousand people took part. The next rally gathered somewhat less – 20,000. If there were training camps, wouldn’t these people have been taught to keep the numbers up? Because it's nothing to do with any imaginary centralised camps, it all depends on the public mood, on the political authorities, on the reaction of society.”

Responding to a question about the possibility and consequences of adopting legislation in Russia introducing criminal or administrative liability for participation in such 'camps' (as in the case of the law on foreign agents), Borshchev said: “This darkening of the clouds would have unpredictable consequences. Of course, the authorities can introduce such legislation, they can create whatever kind of provocation or insinuation – there are professionals who are employed to do this kind of thing. The law on foreign agents was also very cautious at first, and then they took it right up to the point where they began to close down organisations under the pretext of foreign interference.”

Today the State Duma adopted a bill in its second reading that would make it possible to designate individuals as 'foreign agents.' The document provides for the recognition of individuals as 'foreign agents' or 'media foreign agents' if they publicly distribute information to an audience or participate in the creation of such information, as well as receive funding from abroad.

Translated by Mercedes Malcomson