Freedom Suffers Another Setback In Russia

The Soviet Union officially died in 1991, but Russia’s road toward freedom has always been a difficult one, and things became even more difficult when Boris Yeltsin was followed as President by former KGB officer Vladimir Putin. In the seven years since he became President, he has taken steps to consolidate power and eliminate rivals. The latest step came this week, when the Russian Supreme Court ruled that one of the last real opposition parties in Russia cannot participate in the next round of legislative elections:

Russia’s next parliament is likely to have no genuine opposition after a court in Moscow yesterday banned a leading liberal party from standing in elections.

Russia’s supreme court announced that it had liquidated the small Republican party, claiming that it had violated electoral law by having too few members. The party is one of very few left in Russia that criticises President Vladimir Putin.


Vladimir Ryzhkov, the leader of the Republican party, said yesterday that the ban was part of a Kremlin-inspired campaign to crack down on dissent. “This is part of the Kremlin’s policy of suppressing the opposition. It’s being done to prevent opposition parties from taking part in elections,” he told the Guardian. “This is the fate any opposition party in Russia.”

Mr Ryzhkov – one of a handful of independent MPs in the Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, and a leading Putin critic – said his party would appeal in Russia and to the European court of human rights.

It’s fairly easy to see what will happen next if Putin is successful in removing the last of the real opposition parties from the Duma. First to go, as Captain Ed points out, will be that inconvenient little provision of the Russian Constitution that prevents him from running for re-election. After that, the sky’s the limit.

It’s sad to think that the promising days of glasnost, and the spirit that was shown when the people rose up to put down a coup in the summer of 1991, are coming to this.