Hardly had protests peaked last week on the law suit brought against the well-known Soldiers' Mothers NGO, before the Federal Registration Office of Russian Ministry of Justice withdrew the suit. As unclarities on the matter still exist, one should however not preclude the possibility that Russia eventually will continue its plans to close down the organisation. At the same time, the matter brought against the Soldiers' Mothers also serves to hide a similar closure of another less well-known but still important NGO - that of Khodorkovsky-founded Open Russia Foundation, Gazeta.ru reports.
Thus, Open Russia's website on April 12 stated that "Moscow City Court [the infamous Basmanny court] has today rejected an appeal by Open Russia interregional NGO against a Basmanny Court ungrounded and illegal injunction to freeze Open Russia's accounts." It is interesting to see how the same - politically directed - court that brought the case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky now continues to clamp down on his efforts for democracy and transparency in Russian society. It is also apparent that as one of Russia's most well-known NGO's is closed down, the other - the Soldiers' Mothers - is dismissed with a warning, thus drawing away attention from the "lesser evil."
This appears to be the real value of president Putin's ambitions to create civil society in Russia. As long as NGO's do not criticise the state or vital interests, they may be accepted. But if they do what NGO's should do - criticise evils of society to create change - they will be closed down.
Finally, one wonders if these manouvres are just tests by Russian authorities to see how far they can go in repressing civil society without too great domestic and international protests. Perhaps, in the long run, the international community will grow tired of and accustomed to Russian repression of civil society, and stop voicing its concerns. Using a Japanese proverb, the principle of Putin's policy seems to be that: "The nail that sticks out must be hit down."