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Jacobin Radio

Jacobin Radio: The Fate of Russia's Opposition w/ Ilya Budraitskis

On June 5, Boris Kagarlitsky’s appeal against a five-year prison sentence was rejected by the Russian Supreme Court's Military Chamber. Kagarlitsky must now serve his sentence in a penal colony in Torzhok some 155 miles northwest of Moscow. The decision was unjust, but not unexpected.


Kagarlitsky spent nearly five months in pre-trial detention, charged with "justifying terrorism" for ironic remarks he made on his social media channel after the explosion on the Crimean Bridge in 2022. He was freed after a military court handed him a fine in December. But in February 2024, there was an unexpected appeal trial at a military court of appeals where the prosecutors overturned the December verdict that freed him, citing excessive leniency.


During the June 5 appeal hearing, Kagarlitsky explained that the title of the offending YouTube video, “Explosive Congratulations for Mostik the Cat” — a reference to a real cat that lived on the Crimea bridge — was “an extremely unfortunate joke.” He argued that his jail term was disproportionate to the offense. Kagarlitsky’s attorney plans to appeal the verdict with Russia’s Constitutional Court on the grounds that his client received “excessive” punishment.


The case against Boris Kagarlitsky is indicative: He received five years not for the content of the video, but for the words of its title. The judges’ cruel decision reflects the determination of the Putin regime to crush domestic opposition to its war on Ukraine. This is a state bent on suppressing all forms of criticism, jokes included. In this context, the basic democratic and legal rights of anti-war activists like Boris Kagarlitsky and thousands of others count for very little.


Boris Kagarlitsky is in prison for courageously speaking out against the war in Ukraine. He is the victim of a gross but entirely deliberate miscarriage of justice and has become a symbol of the struggle for the right to freedom of expression. He is a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience.


Ilya Budraitskis, another Putin critic, was dismissed from his job at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and forced to flee Russia to avoid arrest for his active critique of the war in Ukraine and consistent opposition to Putin’s regime. He joins us with his take on the fate of opposition in Russia and the case of Boris Kagarlitsky in general.


Jacobin Radio with Suzi Weissman features conversations with leading thinkers and activists, with a focus on labor, the economy, and protest movements.

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