Nothing to celebrate The police officers who tried to frame our investigative journalist are going to prison, but justice is far from served
A court has convicted the police officers who concocted a felony case against Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov. They’ve been sentenced to between five and 12 years in prison and stripped of their official ranks. For another four years after they have served their sentences, these men are barred from working in law enforcement.
Making examples of these policemen who tried to lock up Golunov might be considered an important moral victory by society over the abuse of power. Or it could be viewed as an instructive lesson to other officers who misuse their authority and participate in systemic corruption. The fact that these criminals got the punishment they deserve, however, gives us no feeling that justice has triumphed.
This isn’t only because it’s just the perpetrators and an organizer, not whoever ordered this crime, who are headed to prison, though Ivan and his lawyers are fighting to make sure this happens, too. In the two years since Golunov was arrested in downtown Moscow, the scale of police violence and lawlessness in Russia has only increased. Officers in law enforcement and national security have effectively become the basis of the nation’s political system.
The rights of those persecuted by the authorities have nearly vanished. The state has almost entirely destroyed political and civic activism and demoralized the Russians who dreamed of a free country. It’s hard to imagine anything today like the public campaign that secured Ivan Golunov’s release.
We bear some blame for this, as well. Very often, we wish we could return to June 2019 and do a lot differently. To have found the words that unite us instead of saying that we “won back our guy.” To have avoided any grounds for reproach or gloating. To have found a common language with those who we believe genuinely share our values.
The Golunov case showed what incredible power idealists can wield when they manage to unite. And it demonstrated how easy it is to manage idealists if you can divide them into factions.
This is hardly a new idea, but it could be the only thing in Russia’s current conditions that offers some shred of hope. The ability to leave mistakes and old grudges in the past and the capacity for compromise, unity, and solidarity are all we have to survive, if we have anything at all.