Putin’s critics say he is doing his best to follow tradition.
“I never thought we would return to such repression in this country,” [said socialite-turned-activist] Sobchak, whose late father, a mayor of St. Petersburg, gave Putin a start in politics two decades ago and was one of the liberal politicians credited with advancing democracy in Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse.
She said investigators forced her to read intimate letters out loud and “didn’t even let me get dressed for some time” after she was roused from sleep and answered the door.
“They would not let me go to the bathroom alone,” Sobchak said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “There was not even a woman there, I had to do this in front of man in a mask with machinegun.”
Sobchak is a rough Russian equivalent of Paris Hilton — reality TV host, fashion designer, target of lust and envy. So there’s a sheen of titillation helping the news to spread, but below that is pretty transparent intimidation of activists. According to the Moscow Times:
The round of questioning began with surprise raids Monday morning at the homes of several leading opposition figures and their relatives. They were all summoned to appear for questioning early Tuesday, forcing them to miss a highly anticipated, large-scale rally in Moscow.
It’s not the worst treatment of politicians in Russia, and there doubtless exist respectable-sounding legal justifications. Still, not particulaly cheery news.