St. Petersburg: “The Terrorist Attack Will Provide a Pretext for Reinforcing Restrictions over Opposition Groups”

On Monday, 3 April, an explosion in the St. Petersburg subway caused the death of 14 persons, while more than 50 were wounded. One day after the attack, Philippe Alcoy interviewed Kirill Medvedev, an anti-capitalist militant of the Russian Socialist Movement. A direct reaction to the events, this article was first published in French at www.revolutionpermanente.fr,

Photos of the shattered Petersburg subway-car have quickly made the rounds on the internet.  The ensuing confusion has essentially been caused by the fact that no one, neither individual persons nor groups, have claimed responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, a terrorist scenario has been the privileged narrative and already confused ideas have emerged regarding the Muslim population of the country or those coming from the neighbouring countries of Central Asia.

As Kirill Medvedev claims: “a man in typical Muslim attire was seen on surveillance cameras and very soon the media started to publicize this photo, presenting him as a suspect. He presented himself to the police soon after to affirm his innocence. Another person, found among the victims was also suspected of being a ‘kamikaze’ bomber because of his ‘Southern’ appearance [referring to Russia’s southern regions where there is a considerable Muslim population]. But, according to the latest information, he was just a victim.”

Other information refers to “a group connected to ISIS which has been under surveillance by the Secret Services, but managed nevertheless to accomplish one of their two attempted attacks [a bag with a un-activated bomb was found in another central station of the subway]”, according to Medvedev.

The connection between the attack and Russia’s intervention in Syria has immediately been established in everyone’s minds: “actually people were expecting an ISIS reaction much sooner, when the implications of Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict and its media exposure had reached their peak. But of course, the military campaign hasn’t finished yet and such a response has always been possible.”

Medvedev also points out the doubts present among some members of the opposition for whom “it seems a strange coincidence that the attack took place only a few days after the gigantic anti-corruption mobilisation of 26 March, occurring in more than one hundred Russian cities. Having in view the widely-held scenarios regarding the  FSB involvement in the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999 (before Putin came to power as a ‘normalizing’ force), all sorts of analogies could be made. But on the other hand this attack can of course be a hard blow to Putin’s image as a guarantor of security. ”

Concerning the reaction of the government and how the attack might be exploited by it, Medvedev estimates that “regardless of who organized the attack, it is clear that it will be used as a pretext for increasing the control over the Internet, over opposition groups in general, and especially over the youngsters who have been part of the recent protests. Ideas about Ukrainian involvement seem totally false but you can hear this on TV – and probably this will help once more to criminalize the anticorruption movements of 29 April, under the banner of ‘national unity against fascism’”.

This situation proves that, in France as much as in Russia, the gigantic sums of money spent in the fight against terrorism, as well as the repressive measures undertaken for it, have no other effect than limiting the rights of all those who try to resist. Hence, “in the name of the Russian Socialist Movement, we are asking: where are the millions and billions of roubles allegedly channelled towards terrorism protection, but actually spent on fighting the educated young, the dissenting bloggers, and against the striking truck-drivers (only a few days ago a camp of 1500 truck drivers from Dagestan was encircled by the National Guard, the special units created last year for protecting the regime against all types of opposition)? We affirm that the suppression of peaceful demonstrations is not a fight against terrorism, but against the people’s right to non-violent protest. Regardless of who they are, the atomisation of our society is the main objective of all terrorists.  As a result, we make an appeal to the unity of the people as citizens and workers”, concluded Kiril Medvedev.

Translated by Mihai-Dan Cirjan