Extremists: Brotherhood of the “Ring”
Minsk and Moscow’s enforcement agencies are stepping up their collaboration on integration. They are currently working towards establishing a unified list of extremists and extremist resources. This effort is seen as the security forces’ contribution to the doctrine of “equal and indivisible security,” as advocated by Russian President Putin during the recent meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State in St. Petersburg.
“The idea of a single list of ‘banned stuff’ has been discussed repeatedly by the heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of both countries,” noted Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Dmitry Krutoy, expressing confidence that the decision would be made in the near future. “Citizens are perplexed when resources recognized as extremist in Russia publish certain messages in Belarus, or vice versa. And, criminal cases are not initiated in Moscow or Minsk against these structures or individuals who, for example, have fled,” emphasized Krutoy.
However, the precise purpose behind creating a common “extremist” list remains unclear. While there are agreements and established interaction between the security forces of Belarus and Russia, creating a single list may not necessarily address existing or new problems. Over the past two years, there has been a decline in incentives for Belarusians labeled as “fugitives” to relocate to Russia, and vice versa for “good” Russians seeking refuge in Belarus.
The idea of a unified “banned” list may instill fear in the population and even among the security forces themselves, possibly involved in new personnel adjustments, as seen in the strengthened control of the KGB over the DFR (for more details, refer to the review of the KGB’s increased oversight).
Another potential purpose is purely technical, involving the ordering and synchronization of categories of persons and resources recognized as “extremist” in the two countries. For instance, Minsk could theoretically label Meta Holding, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, as “extremist,” leading to negative economic consequences.
In Belarus, the definition of “extremist” encompasses nearly all independent media and a wide range of protest actions, from participating in so-called “mass riots” to insulting an official. Legal experts believe that the list will likely continue to grow, encompassing everyone tried under “protest” articles of the Criminal Code after August 2020. According to the Viasna center, almost 2.5 thousand such individuals are currently known.
The Russian list is more extensive, including 548 companies and 13,933 individuals, as reported by RBK. As of January 16, 2023, the Federal List of Extremist Materials contains 5,334 items (some of which were excluded due to repetition of content previously included).
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