Photographer: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Putin Ally Says Russia Must Abandon `False Democracy'

  • Russia needs `national idea' to counter U.S., Bastrykin says
  • Censorship, end to `absolute freedom' also necessary, he says

Russia must “stop playing false democracy” in order to combat a “hybrid war” waged against it by the U.S., the chief of the country’s powerful Investigative Committee said.

Russian authorities must abandon “pseudo-liberal values” and give a “tough” response to “political, economic, informational and legal” attacks by the U.S., Alexander Bastrykin said in an article in Kommersant-Vlast magazine Monday. Russia should emulate China by blocking access to foreign media through “censorship” of the Internet as “an effective barrier to this information war,” he said.

Democracy isn’t the same as “the power of the people itself, implemented in their interests,” said Bastrykin, a former university classmate of President Vladimir Putin. This power should serve “the common good” and not “the absolute freedom and tyranny of individual members of society.”

Bastrykin, Russia’s chief criminal investigator, has led a crackdown on opposition activists since Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 after unprecedented street protests. Putin, who’s called the Internet a “CIA project,” said this month that the U.S. is seeking to destabilize Russia before September’s parliamentary elections after leaked documents linked people close to him with $2 billion in offshore transactions.

Putin’s accused the U.S. and Europe of funding uprisings against pro-Russian leaders in ex-Soviet states through support for non-governmental organizations. Russian NGOs that accept funding from abroad have to register as “foreign agents” since 2012.

‘Tools Of War’

The U.S. is betting on stirring up ethnic and religious conflicts in Russia that previously destroyed “the ideological foundation of the USSR,” Bastrykin said. While conflicts that erupted during the Soviet Union’s collapse were seen at the time as having local causes, “it’s now absolutely obvious that all these clashes were part of an initial hidden phase of the information war,” he said.

Sanctions are being used to weaken Russia’s economy, while international law has become part of the “tools of war” used by the U.S. and its allies, according to Bastrykin. He cited as examples rulings on the case of the Yukos Oil Co., the inquiry in London into the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, the Dutch inquiry into the 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 in Ukraine, and what he said was the FBI’s investigation into the legitimacy of FIFA’s award of the soccer World Cup to Russia in 2018.

The U.S. is spending billions of dollars “under the guise” of promoting democracy in Russia’s neighboring states, Bastrykin said. That’s fueling an “anti-Russian mood” in those countries and a “pro-American and pro-Western” opposition in Russia, he said. 

Russia must retaliate with a “national idea” that includes “ideological education” of the young to ensure “destabilization won’t happen even with the most generous external funding,” he said. Youth organizations should be checked to ensure they’re not involved in “forbidden extremist activity.”

Denying the validity of a 2014 referendum in Crimea, in which more than 95 percent voted to join Russia, should also be made an extremist crime, Bastrykin said. Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine after the vote, which the U.S. and the European Union have condemned as illegal.

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