Russia: Anti-terrorism legislation misused to punish activist Boris Kagarlitsky

Reacting to the sentencing on the prosecution’s appeal of renowned Russian sociologist and Marxist activist Boris Kagarlitsky to five years in a penal colony, on spurious charges of “justification of terrorism,” Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Director for Russia, said:

“This verdict is a blatant abuse of vague anti-terrorism legislation, weaponized to suppress dissent and punish a government critic. By targeting Boris Kagarlitsky, a distinguished sociologist known for his critical stance against government policies, the Russian authorities are showing, once again, their relentless assault on all forms of dissent.”

By targeting Boris Kagarlitsky, a distinguished sociologist known for his critical stance against government policies, the Russian authorities are showing, once again, their relentless assault on all forms of dissent

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Director for Russia

“This conviction, and the closed nature of his trial, provide another stark example of the treatment of political dissenters in Russia. It is an overt attack on freedom of expression with the aim of silencing critical voices through fear and repression.

“This case is not an isolated incident but part of a broader, systematic effort to stifle opposition and control what can and cannot be said in Russia. Amnesty International calls for the immediate release of Boris Kagarlitsky and urges the international community to stand in solidarity against the silencing of critics and the ongoing erosion of human rights in Russia.”

Background

In December 2023, Boris Kagarlitsky, a Soviet dissident, sociologist and editor-in-chief of the Marxist online publication Rabkor, was found guilty of “public justification of terrorism” for a video published on Rabkor commenting on the blast attack on the Crimean Bridge in October 2022. According to the prosecution, “the video was aimed at recognizing and emulating the practice of intimidation as the right move to stop the special military operation.” The prosecution’s main complaint, however, was the title of the video, “Explosive Congratulations for Mostik the Cat […]” which refers to a real cat named Mostik (Bridge), who lived on the Crimean Bridge and whose image was used by state media to promote the idea of Crimea belonging to Russia.  

Boris Kagarlitsky was issued a fine of 609,000 roubles (approximately US$6,700).

The prosecution appealed this sentence, and, on 13 February, Russia’s Military Court of Appeal sentenced him to five years in a penal colony. He was also banned from administering websites for two years after his release. The Russian authorities’ treatment of Boris Kagarlitsky has grown increasingly hostile in recent years. In May 2022, the activist was declared a “foreign agent.”

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