20 questions with Vladimir Putin. Putin on civil society and foreign agents
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20 questions with Vladimir Putin. Putin on civil society and foreign agents


[Sighs] Civil society. Why did you sigh so heavily? Because the next question will be, why do the authorities prefer to communicate to communicate with vocal members of society by using nightsticks? That is not true. Vocal members of society are not just the so-called non-systemic opposition That break the existing laws. Why is your understanding of vocal members of society so limited? Vocal members of society also include volunteers. There are millions of them already. Millions! Aren’t they vocal members of society? They are effective, young people with great initiative who work in different areas, such as education, public health and environmental protection. They are very active in helping others. This is great. You know, I sometimes look at them in awe, with tears in my eyes, because these people do a really great job. Meanwhile, there is – and there has always been, and always will be – a certain part of society, in any country, that disagrees with the incumbent authorities. And it is very good that such people exist. FYI, those who instigate a revolution usually don’t stay in power for long. Very quickly the public becomes disgruntled with the revolutionaries who took power. The Bolsheviks were probably the sole exception. They remained in power after the October coup for a rather long time. But then… They fell apart and took the country down with them. As for the so-called non-systemic opposition, God bless them. I feel that these people are essential. After all, you do understand this is not my first day on the job. So, I believe that they are needed very much. I can tell that they do have an impact on daily life, locally in particular, on a municipal level in major cities, and so on. Why are they facing a clampdown, then? I will tell you right now. There are certain rules for everybody to adhere to, even those who like the authorities and those who do not. This is the law. And it must be obeyed. Otherwise, the country’s stability will break down. Do we want to see cars torched in our streets? And when were cars torched in our streets? The last time it happened was after the defeat of our national football team in Japan… If there is no response, arson is bound to occur. Shop windows will be smashed to pieces and people will be harmed. You want to express your viewpoint, your opinion, and you want to do it through public protest? You are welcome to do so. The law permits it. Get permission and go ahead. In some countries, in almost every country, even in European ones, unauthorized protests are punishable by incarceration. The prison terms are not very long, from 6-12 months. Yet, in some places, like Sweden, for just joining unauthorized protests involving say 12 people, this is counted as mass unrest. They would get 5-10 years behind bars. We don’t have anything like this. Do you see my point? Three years. Three is less than ten. That’s still quite a lot. Quite a lot. So, do not break the law. That’s another topic. We could spend a long time talking about that. A request was filed, then it was rejected, then protestors took to the streets, meant nothing bad, and so on. Then you will never make heads or tails of who hit whom. Or who did what… Yes. It is not important who and whom. Just get permission. The same procedure exists elsewhere. Permission is requested and obtained there, too. And the foreign agent status? Nobody goes to demonstrations without any permission. And the foreign agent status? Those who show up for demonstrations without permission must be ready to get a punitive buzz cut. Fine… To relax and take it easy. A jailhouse buzz cut, you mean? Why, naturally. It can’t be any other way. For three years? Or for five? The court will decide. It is the court again. I am referring to the foreign agent status. What’s wrong with the foreign agent status? We’re not the ones who came up with it. Seriously, was it us who invented the foreign agent status? This law has been in effect in the US since 1937 or 1938 and it still is. I beg your pardon, but in certain countries, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars on their clothes. So, what difference does it make who invents what? What do you mean? What do yellow stars have to do with any of this? What? It is a label! And what about the genocide of the Jewish people… Vladimir Vladimirovich… No, there is a big difference. The United States of America is not Nazi Germany and it should not be blamed… I drew a parallel… For what it is not responsible at all. It was a terrible parallel. And an unfair one that has nothing to do with reality. In other words, we’re standing up for America? Or rather, you’re standing up for America. I’ll stand up for America here. So, they invented this law and have been actively using it. One such incident occurred just recently. A citizen of ours, a rather well-known young lady, was jailed as a foreign agent. And pardon me, but she was faced with 12 years, right? So? They use it. We have no such thing. We only have an administrative penalty for this. And what is the purpose of that law? It exists simply to protect Russia from external meddling in its politics. There is no other purpose. Although some countries outlaw the activity of these organizations, we do not ban it. They are free to keep working. By the way, this practice is a well-established one. These organizations do keep working and functioning. However, they are required to report if they are engaged in internal political activity and receive funding from abroad. Nobody’s rights are being infringed on here whatsoever. There is nothing that runs counter to international practice. Some may be reluctant to say: yes, I am involved in domestic affairs and I am doing that using money I get from a foreign source. That is foreign money. That wouldn’t be fair, so it’s better to report this and to go ahead with this activity. So, the question is different. And there is a question. And I believe that human rights activists are correct in drawing my attention to this. We need to have a very clear idea of what internal political activity is. We need to ensure that there are no misconceptions. And we need to ensure that no other activity – involving humanitarian matters, for instance, public health or environmental protection – is used as a disguise to engage in domestic political affairs. That’s why our colleagues from law enforcement agencies are here… So foreign agents exist only in politics. Absolutely. This is only about domestic political activity and the funding of that activity from foreign sources.

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