While Western-leaning activists and independent media outlets have never had an easy time of it in Russia, until recently the authorities had resisted heavy handed tactics, opting instead to use propaganda and state TV to try to drown them out.
But since Navalny’s arrest in January, the situation has changed dramatically, with the repression becoming far more pronounced and widespread.
“The non-systemic opposition [Navalny’s organization] lost its political right to exist,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst and non-resident scholar at Moscow’s Carnegie Center.”Liberal media … in the eyes of the [security services] is a player on Navalny’s side and therefore must be neutralized.”
Russia’s deteriorating and increasingly confrontational relationship with Western countries is also fuelling the crackdown on those in Russia perceived to be critics of the regime, Stanovaya told CBC News.
“All that is anti-Putin and liberal … is considered by the authorities to be a tool of Western secret services … to rock the boat and destabilize the situation in Russia.”