Vladimir Slivyak: Putin laid groundwork for Ukraine attack by eliminating civil society at home

News 25.02.2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been silencing civil society and eliminating all opposition in Russia for years. It is now clear that his actions at home were a prelude to the invasion of Ukraine, Russian environmentalist and 2021 Right Livelihood Laureate Vladimir Slivyak said on Friday.

Protesters have taken to the streets in several Russian cities to raise their voices against the attack on Ukraine, often risking arrests. However, the majority of Russian citizens are afraid of voicing their opinions.

“It’s great that there are still brave people in Russia, who are prepared to go on the street to protest the war,” Slivyak said. “This is what every human should do when a war is happening. At the same time, it’s clear that not that many people are on the streets.”

Most activists and members of the political opposition have either fled Russia or are in jail. It is not a coincidence: Putin has been working to eliminate civil society voices and any opposition in Russia for years.

One of the emblematic crackdowns on civil society came in December 2021, when Russia’s Supreme Court liquidated the country’s leading human rights organisation, Memorial International. Incidentally, the organisation received the Right Livelihood Award in 2004.

“What happened last year is basically that Putin decided to destroy entirely the whole opposition,” Slivyak said. “Obviously, he was thinking about war. And he was preparing through eliminating all kinds of opposition, through controlling mass media in Russia. He was preparing our country for war.”

These tactics have resulted in creating a society where people are either scared or disinterested in politics.

By eliminating democracy, Putin has created an environment that is hard to fathom for people outside this system.

“Most people around the world just do not understand what’s going on in Russia and what President Putin made out of Russia in the last 20 years,” Slivyak said. “I think that contributes to a situation where it’s very hard to stop President Putin from what he decided to do.”

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