Counterspin: The Fact That There Are Anti-War Protests in Russia Does Not Mean That It Is a Democratic State
Anti-war protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities are not proof that the Russian state has democratic capital, as Biševac spins. A large number of arrests, the censorship of certain media and most of the social networks claim the exact opposite. The claim that Ukraine has not received any refugees from the war zones in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq is also incorrect and manipulative. UNHCR data shows that in 2020, 2,172 refugees and 2,430 asylum seekers were staying in Ukraine. Some of those refugees, who previously fled war zones in the Middle East, are now refugees again, trying to escape another war in the country where they took refuge
Author: Simona Atanasova
Safet Biševac, a former MP and journalist, in a guest appearance on the show Studio 10 on Television 24 expressed at least two spins related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began three weeks ago.
Spin 1: Russia is not as dictatorial and closed a society as the world is trying to portray it. If in such a Russia, with such Putin’s rule, thousands of people take to the streets and protest against the war, it means that in that country there is a democratic capital that is portrayed by protests. Yes, you will say that he arrest them. Of course he will arrest them, that is the official side of Russian politics (07:10 – 7:40 in the video).
[Source: TV 24 – Studio 10 – Guest appearance of Safet Biševac; date: 09.03.2022]
Counterspin: Former MP Safet Biševac spins that Russia is a democratic society, just because people protested to express their displeasure over the military invasion started by their country against another sovereign and independent state. What kind of democratic capital is Biševac talking about in a situation when there are thousands arrested during the anti-war protests in several cities in Russia?! There is nothing democratic here, but a clear goal to suppress the protests and to instil “fear in the bones”.
Protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities are neither aggressive nor do they oppose police from arresting and dispersing rallies. People simply take to the streets to protest their government’s military actions and call for an end to the war.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a land, air, and naval invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Russian human rights organization OVD-Info reported that by March 13, there had been more than 14,000 arrests during the protests. Out of these, more than 170 people have been remanded in custody.
“The screws are being fully tightened – essentially we are witnessing military censorship,” Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info’s spokeswoman, told Reuters.
To quell dissent among its citizens, the Russian government has stepped up its action on independent Russian media and cut off access to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, declaring “false information” about the war a crime. The law, which went into effect on March 4, criminalizing independent reporting on war and anti-war protests, carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
“It’s very difficult for people to go to the streets and protest. Anyone trying to go out or looking like a protester has been violently dragged away,” said Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Moscow, adding that in one case, a woman was dragged away just because she was holding a blank piece of white paper.
An AFP journalist present at the protests in the capital, Moscow, testified to at least a dozen arrests and said police had detained anyone without a journalist ID.
So, the fact that protests are taking place does not mean that the country is democratic, as Biševac wants to portray. A large number of arrests, the censorship of certain media and most of the social networks claim the exact opposite.
Spin 2: The same Ukraine a few years ago did not want to receive any refugees from war zones in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. (13:15 – 13:28 in the video)
Counterspin: This is another manipulation that Bisevac did during the interview. The claim that Ukraine has not received any refugees from the hotspots in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq is not true.
UNHCR data shows that in 2020, 2,172 refugees and 2,430 asylum seekers were staying in Ukraine. Prior to the invasion, Ukraine offered refugee status and complementary protection to those fleeing persecution and war in their home countries (for more than 60 countries). Some of them managed to learn Ukrainian, find a job, start a business and integrate, while others faced integration challenges. Some of those refugees, who previously fled war zones in Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, are now refugees again, trying to escape another war in the country where they took refuge.
The final destinations for refugees from Middle East war zones were EU member states. That is why the number of refugees seeking asylum in Ukraine is small, and not because the Ukrainian state did not want to accept them. The situation is the same with North Macedonia, which was a transit destination for thousands of refugees, but the number of those who wanted to stay in our country and seek asylum here is very small.
Hence, the claims that Russia is a democratic state and that Ukraine has not received any refugees from other warzones are a distortion of the truth and we assess them as a spin.
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