Kremlin watchers were surprised in December 2013 by the announcement of immediate pardons for several leading regime opponents who had been imprisoned or held under house arrest for political reasons. But Russia has more subtle ways of keeping potential activists under control than simply jailing them. It uses threats and intimidation – and what is known in Moscow as ‘suspended punishment'.

<em>There is much talk about political prisoners in Russia. But the numbers are very small. The current mode of political repression is more sophisticated, and arguably more effective, than the sheer brutality of the comm...

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Professor Stefan Hedlund
As long as you keep quiet, nothing will happen. But if you attract the attention of the wrong agencies, then a ton of bricks may suddenly fall on your head
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