June 11, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11393

Russian Opposition Politician Elvira Vikhareva: 'How Foreign Agents Scared Putin's Regime'

June 11, 2024
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 11393

On May 15, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that bans "foreign agents" from being "candidates, candidates' agents, or observers during elections of all levels." When the State Duma voted into law this regulation on May 6, many experts asked themselves why this legislation had been introduced in such a hurry.

Renowned Russian economist and MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project Special Advisor, Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev, gave the following explanation: "Presumably, it was done because in early March a group of people, including myself, who are designated 'foreign agents,' announced their intention to run for the Moscow City Duma in the upcoming elections scheduled for September. The group, set up and led by liberal activist Elvira Vikhareva, who had unsuccessfully run for the State Duma in 2021, rapidly expanded, and soon reached 45 people who were able to apply for the candidate status in each constituency in the capital city, the Moscow City Duma consists of 45 deputies.

"Of course, the chances for being registered remained low since most of the 'provocateurs' are residing abroad with little intention to return to Russia for submitting their applications to the Moscow Electoral Commission, which can be made only in person. Yet, the initiative received a lot of attention in liberal media and on social networks, causing a predictable reaction. In fact, less than two months passed between when the idea to run for the Moscow City Duma was first announced and when Putin signed into law a bill banning 'foreign agents' from being electoral candidates. It is worth noting that the law does not only ban 'foreign agents' from running for elected offices, but rules that all the already elected individuals with this status have 180 days either to challenge their legal status in court or to resign from positions they hold."[1]

Following is a translation of an article by Russian opposition politician Elvira Vikhareva, titled "How Foreign Agents Scared Putin's Regime," which the Moscow Times published on May 6, 2024.[2] It is worth noting that, in 2023, Vikhareva reported that she had been poisoned with heavy metal salts.[3]

Elvira Vikhareva

"It Saw Us As A Threat"

"The State Duma at its plenary session voted in favor of amendments banning persons with foreign agent status from participating in elections at all levels as candidates.

"How many deputies are there in the State Duma? Four hundred and fifty. How many employees are there in the presidential administration? Over 3,000. And there's also the government, all sorts of security officials...

"And of all of them, without exception, we, the foreign agents, could not care less.

"That is, it is not that we neglect them. No, we manipulate them.

"After all, what was the point of nominating a list of foreign agents to the Moscow City Duma? We were guided by the Olympic principle: The main thing is not victory, but participation. We understood perfectly well: Where would victory come from if we were all up against this monster, which is not only savage, etc., but also bellowing?[4]

"So, we just teased it. And it bought it. It saw us as a threat."

"We Made The Regime Tremble"

"I will tell you a secret: We still have not even managed to find 45 foreign agents for the Moscow City Duma. And with this incomplete list, we still made the regime tremble.

"The very regime that is so sovereign, so powerful. The very same regime that is writhing in pain at the sight of a plastic cup.[5]

"Why have we done all this? Why have we organized a PR campaign on which we have not spent a single penny?

"First, to show that the status of a foreign agent is discrimination. Stop lying about the fact that this is just a plaque in a post. It is a direct denial of rights. Lishentsy.[6] And all the other hurtful words. Please – it is proven. We have the certificate, the seal. The dictatorship ripped off its own pants and ran down the street. Down the Peterskaya street, The Tverskaya-Yamskaya![7]

"Second, to show the weakness of this regime. You do not need to be Yevgeny Prigozhin and his troops, you do not need a march on Moscow to scare all these usurpers. We have not even said 'Boo!' yet, and they have already jumped under the blanket with a squeal.

"But there is a third thing. And here we will talk about all of our opposition.

"It has done well for itself. Somewhere out there people are being killed, and here it is furiously discussing the issues of benches, writing requests on beautiful forms, participating in elections – I mean, in 'elections.'

"No, guys, that's enough. Let us get to the point of earnest loss.[8]

"Yes or no, black or white, with us or with them. It is time to make up our minds. Citizens, hand in your deputy badges and show yourselves: are you politicians or are you just queueing for mandates?

"If you are politicians, then even without the status granted by Vladimir Putin, you will bring benefit to people. I have a project called 'Reception.' Without any status, I talk to people. I help them, solve their problems. And what are you capable of without a cozy chair? Shall we test it?"

"Putin, Don't  Delay: Sign It"

"If you only knew the sadness that hangs in talks between foreign agents now. After all, many seriously expected that they would still run for election, still slip between the trickles of rain. No, no, that is enough. Let's get your final battle of good versus neutrality over here now.

"I am not 'grieving' at all. I am glad. Glad for this transparent clarity that came today in the second and third readings.

"Putin, don't delay: Sign it [i.e., the bill into law] – and we could not care less. You have repression – but we have ingenuity.

"Lord, how good it is to know that we no longer have to live in hope, which is a foolish feeling.

"'Upon waking up with a sharp light,

"'We see – the ill-fated has come,

"'Like a comet in sky shining so bright,

"'Like a radiant herald of harm.'

"(Georgy Ivanov, 1950)"[9]


[2], May 6, 2024.

[3], March 24, 2023.

[4] Reference from Aleksandr Radishchev's A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow: "A grim monster, savage, gigantic, hundred-mouthed, and bellowing." The words are usually considered Radishchev's depiction of Tsarist Russia.

[5] In 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian authorities were right to jail protesters for throwing plastic cups at police during mass anti-government rallies in Moscow., December 11, 2019.

[6] "Lishentsy" were disenfranchised persons, or better "deprived (the literal meaning of the word lishentsy) in Soviet Russia from 1918 to 1936. See: Stalin's Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1926–1936. By Golfo Alexopoulos. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003. Pp. xi+243.

[7] Starting lines from Russian folk song Down the Peterskaya street. See:

[8] Reference to a poem by Boris Pasternak "I should have known that this would happen." See:о-знал-бы-я-что-так-бывает-boris-pasternak/

[9] See the original poem by Georgy Ivanov,

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