Graffiti warnings sprayed on activists’ doors in Moscow. For “discrediting” Russia’s army, a food blogger faces up to 15 years in prison. A plea for a top former official to be fired for “treason” for opposing the Ukraine war.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a venomous warning to “traitors,” stating that the West would try to use them as a fifth column to destroy Russia, but that Russians would be able to discern “patriots from filth” immediately. [USN:L5N2VJ5NQ]
Dmitry Ivanov, a Moscow-based activist, said his mother discovered a graffiti message on the door to their apartment landing just hours after Putin’s speech: “Don’t betray the nation Dima.”
The graffiti included multiple “Z” signs, which have been used to rally support for Moscow’s “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. The design is inspired by marks found on Russian armoured vehicles and tanks. [USN:L5N2VC4UP]
Ivanov, who has protested the war, claimed he had no idea who was behind the graffiti, but that he knew of at least three other persons whose doors had been vandalised in the similar way on Wednesday evening, including activists and a journalist.
“I’m not sure what their goals are: to frighten, not to frighten, or simply to ruin your mood.” It’s difficult to terrify us with such activities because we’re accustomed to such attention,” the 22-year-old told Reuters.
“It’s possible that this measure was taken in response to Putin’s” speech, I think that’s possible. Especially considering how shoddily, and cheaply these markings were done. It was done in a hurry,” he said.
Since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned across Russia.
Putin told government officials on Wednesday that Russians will spit up traitors “like gnats,” and that society would be better off as a result.
“I am certain that society’s natural and necessary self-cleansing will only strengthen our country, our togetherness, cohesion, and readiness to face any challenge,” he stated.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, was asked about the remarks on Thursday and claimed that many people were revealing themselves to be traitors.
“They are themselves vanishing from our life.” Some people are resigning from their positions, others are ceasing to work, and yet others are leaving the country and relocating to other countries. This is how the cleansing works happens,” he said.
Following Putin’s remarks, the Investigative Committee, a law enforcement body, named the first person under investigation, a food blogger, for disseminating “fake information” about Russia’s army on her blog.
Following a wave of anti-invasion protests, Russia passed a law on March 4 that makes that offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who resides in southern France, told Reuters that despite being apolitical, she was not surprised she had been singled out since she fit the profile of someone the average Russian would despise.
“You know, there’s this obese spoiled woman who makes foie gras and consumes it on the Cote D’Azur, in Provence, or in Italy lobsters, who also dares to blather on from over there… I have all of these qualities that the average person would see as disgusting,” she said.
Following Putin’s speech on Wednesday, a prominent member of the ruling United Russia party demanded that former deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich be fired from his role as head of an economic innovation foundation.
In comments to Western media, Dvorkovich, who now heads the International Chess Federation, opposed the war. [USN:L5N2VH6BG]
“He’s made his decision,” legislator Andrei Turchak remarked. “This is nothing more than the president’s today-mentioned national treason, the behaviour of the fifth column.”