Jailed Russian Opposition Activist Slams Pavel’s Comments on Russians Abroad

Ilya Yashin said that Pavel’s comment played into the hands of Putin’s regime. Photo credit: Petr Pavel, via Facebook.

Moscow, June 27 (CTK) – Jailed Russian dissident politician Ilya Yashin issued an open letter yesterday, published on social media, rebuking Czech President Petr Pavel for his recent statement calling for stricter surveillance of Russians living in the West, and said Pavel’s comments were helping Russian state propaganda.

Russia is not a “country of murderers” but a country where “murderers have seized power”, Yashin said.

In an interview with Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) in mid-June, Pavel argued in favour of subjecting Russians living in Western countries to stricter surveillance than in the past “because they are citizens of a country waging a war of aggression.” He likened the situation to the “strict surveillance regime” under which the Japanese lived in the United States during World War II. “This is simply the price of war,” he said.

Later, Pavel said he was not calling for surveillance of every Russian citizen, but for “blanket monitoring of what is going on in the (Russian) community.”

His words provoked a strong reaction from Russian media and officials, who took the statement as evidence of alleged “Russophobia” in the West.

In his letter, Yashin said he had been discussing various issues with his fellow prisoners and trying to explain to them that “Russia can be different”, that Russians “are not condemned to dictatorship” and that “European values are in the interest of the Russian people”. He wrote that he cited many historical examples, including the Czech Republic and its first president, Vaclav Havel, whom he “holds in high esteem”.

“Now imagine: in the middle of another such discussion, you, Mr President, appear on the TV screen. Kremlin propaganda relishes your words about the fact that all Russians living in Western countries should be taken under strict control of local special services,” Yashin said, adding that one of his fellow prisoners responded to Pavel’s statement by saying, “Putin rightly explains that for the West we are all second-class people. Both you and me. All of us.”

Yashin went on to say that everyone should be judged by their actions and not “as a society.”

“I believe that in a free society the security services will not check a person because of their nationality. I believe that my country will be able to get rid of the oppression of dictatorship, as your country and many other European countries of the free world once did. I believe that Russia and Europe can live in peace and good neighbourliness,” he wrote.

According to Yashin, Russian President Putin is drumming into the heads of his countrymen that Europe is the enemy and its leaders are Russophobes.

“Please do not help Putin,” Yashin appealed to Pavel. “Believe me, we are not a country of murderers. We are a country where murderers have seized power,” Yashin concluded.

Yashin, 39, worked in Moscow’s municipal politics and, until his arrest last June, was one of the last Russian opposition politicians openly criticising Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. He was arrested in connection with his video stream on YouTube, where he spoke about the killing of civilians by Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. A Russian court last year sentenced Yashin to 8.5 years in prison for spreading false information about the Russian military. Yashin maintains his innocence, and in his trial in April he described Putin as a war criminal.

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