The Russian liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an article, titled "FSB Trumps DPD [domestic policy directorate of the presidential administration]", by political columnist Kirill Martynov, analyzing how Russian Security services are seizing control over the country's political processes.
On October 5, searches were conducted in the apartments of Open Russia employees and at the office of this civic organization, founded by the former CEO of oil giant Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (who was stripped of his ownership in controversial legal proceedings). According to Martynov, the participation of "REN TV propagandists" in the searches points to the political subtext of the events. Martynov then stresses the Open Russia searches is one of the episodes showing the transfer of management of internal political processes under the FSB control. The Novaya Gazeta columnist explains that the political ambitions of the FSB already far exceed the scope of departmental interests. "Security services are close to obtaining direct control over the [2018 presidential] election campaign, turning the president's administration into a conduit for their decisions," concludes Martynov.
According to Martynov, the same "style of forcible cleanup" is on display in the administrative arrest of Alexey Navalny and of his campaign manager, Leonid Volkov, on the eve of a large protest rally on October 7, organized on the same date of Russian President Vladimir Putin's 65th birthday. It is worth noting, that despite Navalny's arrest, several hundred people rallied in Moscow and in Putin’s hometown, St. Petersburg. Other rallies were organized all over Russia. The independent media outlet Meduza.io reported that in St. Petersburg police responded with "greater force": "dozens of people" were detained, and several demonstrators were injured.
Below are excerpts of Martynov's article. Mikhail Khodorkovsky's analysis of the events appears in the appendix:
Kirill Martynov (Source: Journal.ru)
The searches at Open Russia (Source: Ren TV)
Navalny-sponsored demonstration in Moscow (Source: Meduza.io)
'What We Are Witnessing Is One Of The Episodes Of Transfer Of Management Of Internal Political Processes Under The FSB Control'
"On October 5 in the morning, extensive searches were conducted in the apartments of Open Russia employees and at the office of this organization. They were looking for the money of [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky, [Leonid] Nevzlin, and other undesirable citizens. The investigative activities were formally conducted in connection with the first Yukos criminal case, opened as far back as 2003. The current Open Russia chairman, Alexander Solovyov, for example, was then an 8th grade student.
"With all the numerous ridiculous details of the searches (one is tempted to write 'roundup'), it is easy to miss the political context.
"The key clue for an understanding of the broader context of the Open Russia hunt is the 'operational escort of the Investigative Committee officers by the cameras of the [Russia's pro-Kremlin channel] REN TV channel. It makes no practical sense for [head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander] Bastrykin's department to conduct searches in connection with the old Yukos case – it's unlikely that anybody seriously expected to discover suitcases with Khodorkovsky's money in the apartments of opposition activists. But the participation of REN TV propagandists points to the political meaning of the events, where the Investigative Committee merely serves as the contractor.
"We are dealing with one episode of transferring the management of internal political processes to the FSB's control.
"The meaning of the on camera attack on Open Russia (note that REN TV, in fact, participates in the investigation and does not simply film what's going on) is transparent. We see before us an election eve cleanup of political players, who are not under FSB control, with simultaneous progress report and display of power — both to potential 'clients', i.e. those who may also be subjected to a search and to the FSB's competitors — including, in all appearances, those inside the president's administration.
'The Security Services Are Imposing On The Country Their Own Vision Of Political Development Goals And Political Participation Methods'
"Pressure on political activists should demonstrate to the Kremlin that security services are more effective at coping with problems, and they are the ones — in the interests of the country's security of course — that should have the last word on political issues.
"The same style of forcible cleanup characterized the administrative arrest of Alexey Navalny and [Navalny's election campaign chief, Leonid] Volkov on the eve of a large protest rally announced for October 7. Before that, regional authorities used to act according to a different guideline: rallies were to be approved only in places where they could not, by definition, gather many people. The attempt to marginalize Navalny's supporters, to ruin his street campaigning was designed to be a Russian version of 'soft power'.
"At first, Volkov was unexpectedly released, and it looked like a partial retaliation on the part of the domestic policy directorate (DPD) of the presidential administration. But a few hours later, he was detained again and taken to an undisclosed location.
"If we take a broader look and analyze not only the pressure on opposition politicians but also the bureaucratic model emerging on the eve of the 2018 election, we will see a similar picture.
"Security services are imposing on the country their own vision of political development goals and political participation methods.
"The current rotation of regional elites was de facto launched by the FSB and started side by side with the arrests of the governors Aleksandr Khoroshavin, Vyacheslav Gayzer, and Nikita Belykh. Deputies of some regional administrators, who have stepped down over the past few weeks, in particular, the governor of Primorsky Krai, Vladimir Miklushevsky, have also been under active investigation for quite some time.
"The FSB has direct control over cultural policy — a declaration of this fact received much media attention following the house arrest of the director Kirill Serebrennikov. It was said that the director's case was transferred to the FSB Service for Defense of Constitutional Order, since this organization has special skills in dealing with the intelligentsia.
"So far, there is no special political department in [FSB headquarters in] Lubyanka. But the influence of plainclothes men on political decision-making can be felt more and more strongly.
"The political ambitions of the FSB, already far exceeding the scope of departmental interests, continue to grow. Security services are close to obtaining direct control over the election campaign, turning the president's administration into a conduit for their decisions. This strengthening is taking place in the context of clan conflicts, into which other players in the Russian political market invest most of their resources."
APPENDIX I - Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Those Who Long Ago Abandoned Their Conscience Will Answer Before The Law
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Source: Khodorkovsky.com)
"This week across the whole of Russia the Kremlin is carrying out a campaign of severe intimidation against the opposition. Is this a preparation for the 2018 presidential elections? Yes it is, in a number of ways.
"Putin and his allies have no doubts about the result of the elections. In fact, you can hardly even call them elections; they are merely a facade. But the elites need this facade.
"The international community has thrown the Kremlin out of the 'club'. Hopes of 'their man in the White House' have turned out to be empty. For all his quirks, Trump will reflect the position of the American people.
"'Turning to the East' brought nothing but an additional flow of money into the pockets of Rosneft head Igor Sechin and gave China half the year's oil extraction of the whole country! With a discount, of course. China does not need a 'friend in the Kremlin', a servant will do.
"What's left is either formal communication or marginalized and corrupt ex-politicians. This does not work at all; without informal communication personal problems in Putin's entourage began to arise and it is now impossible to solve anything promptly. It's not even possible for them to feel a part of the global elite.
"This is precisely the reason why legitimization through elections is vital for them. They are trying to keep their opponents' mouths shut. They have to shut them up before the 'election campaign', not during it. They need to shut them up while the world is distracted by the events in Catalonia and Las Vegas.
"And meanwhile, they are quietly trying to shut down the internet and archives using the 'law of oblivion'. Just in case. But this will not work! We will support the mass protests called for by Alexey Navalny on Saturday October 7 and we will be there to protect the participants.
"We will continue to expose those who behind the country's back are manipulating legal authority, and are using the mental and informational center of power – the figure of the president himself.
"We will continue to collect and prepare materials for the prosecution of human rights abusers and in the coming days we will give Russian society the opportunity to participate in this work.
"We will certainly take part in the pseudo-elections in such a way that no reasonable person will have any doubt that this government is illegitimate and that it is conscious of its own illegitimacy.
"We will tell all their potential 'partners', voters and the shareholders of 'partners' so that they can make an informed choice and make it known.
"Russia and the Russian state is not going anywhere. It has existed for centuries; it still exists and will continue to exist. But now it has been captured and manipulated by a narrow group of criminals who have settled in and around the Kremlin. We all know the big names of this clan: [Prosecutor General of Russia, Yury] Chaika, [Head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander] Bastrykin, [former head of the Internal Security Department of Russia's FSB] Victor Ivanov, [head of Rosneft Igor] Sechin… [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov and many others.
"These are the real criminals. They have a criminal biography, criminal experience and they utilize criminal methods. They know how to buy and suppress people, and they are prepared to destroy Russia and what lies beyond its borders.
"Fighting these people requires courage, but they all have to answer for what they have done. Some will answer before their own conscience, and for those who long ago abandoned it; before the law."
 Novayagazeta.ru, October 6, 2017.
 See Moscow court leaves Russian opposition leader Navalny in detention center until October 21, Tass.com, October 6, 2017.
 Khodorkovsky.com, October 5, 2017.
 Russian parliamentarians plan to alter the "Information, information technology and security law" in a way that will allow the General Prosecution office to block content on the Internet in an extra-judicial manner. According to the publication Vedomosti, the Communist party, Just Russia, and United Russia are sponsoring the new legislation, which will grant the General Prosecution a right to demand from the State Regulator Roskomnadzor to block any websites publishing "undesirable" information: call for mass protests and riots, extremist actions and participation in mass actions, which violate the law. Additionally, the General Prosecution will no longer require a judicial order to block websites of 11 NGOs banned in Russia or other websites promoting materials of the banned NGOs.
The official explanation for the proposed amendments are :
"There are currently 11 NGOs, forbidden in Russia, yet their websites are accessible. These platforms are being utilized for discrediting Russia's internal and foreign policy, forming negative public opinion and destabilizing the country".
According to opposition leader Navalny, the new amendments will also allow the General Prosecution Office to block calls for participation in pre-election rallies on Navalny's websites. (Vedomosti.ru, September 30, 2017); See also Russian lawmakers want to expand the government's power to block websites without court oversight, Meduza.io, October 2, 2017.