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In the dark hours of Sunday night, Yegor Sergeevich Zhukov- a 22-year-old Russian opposition blogger, was thrashed outside his home by two unidentified men; he has now been hospitalised with serious injuries.

After several medical checks, Zhukov’s diagnosis reported facial laceration, concussion and closed craniocerebral injury.

Zhukov has even filed a complaint with the police, the investigation for which, is underway. Currently, attempts are being made by the Moscow police to identify and detain Zhukov’s assailants. If convicted of assault, the attackers could face up to two years in jail.

Flipping through the pages of recent history, Zhukov has had several encounters with the police for his ‘publicly-incited extremist ideologies’. In his Youtube videos, Zhukov has openly called the Russian elections corrupt as independent and opposition candidates were barred from participating in local elections.

Zhukov even took to the streets along with 1,000 or more anti-Kremlin demonstrators in the 2019 Moscow protests, which demanded a system of free elections. The same year, on 2nd August, Zhukov was arrested for his involvement in these protests.

In December 2019, Zhukov was banned from administering websites for two years by the Kuntsevo District Court in western Moscow. He was also handed a three-year suspended sentence for provoking extremism. He called these events ‘politically motivated moves’.

Earlier, Zhukov had said that he was rejected for a master's course on cinema at Moscow's prestigious Higher School of Economics (After initially being accepted for it). Zhukov linked this rejection to his political activity as a university administrator allegedly told him that the decision had been taken "on orders from above".

Regardless of the frequency of his court interactions, he has been fairly popular with the public as a political commentator. Tailing this ban imposed on him, Zhukov began to work for the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) station. He had boldly commented on the disproportion of wealth distribution in the country, saying, “Russia’s current political system has fostered economic inequality that destroys any opportunity for human prosperity, with the top 10 percent holding 90 per cent of the country's wealth.”

The timing of the assault on Zhukov has aided in the suspected connection of the same with the recent poisoning case of Russia’s most famous opposition campaigner, Alexi Navalny. This theory arose after people learned that Zhukov had previously interacted with and interviewed Mr. Navalny, who is now in an induced coma in a hospital in Berlin.

However, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, has said that he is against linking the attack to the suspected poisoning of the Russian dissident, and contradicts any further theories that are along the same lines. If these cases are truly two entangled strings forming a complicated knot, the investigation is bound take on an entirely different course.

Seeing the ‘need’ for it, the Russian government had  made an effort to introduce anti- extremist laws in the country. In the summer of 2011, they identified the prevention of extremism as a major task. In fact, an interagency commission for this purpose was also  established. Now, violent and non-violent forms of extremism are defined by the Criminal Code, Code of Administrative Violations, and framework Law on Countering Extremist Activity. 

Although, these definitions do not give a clear idea of what extremism actually is. The blurry space between what is and what isn't considered extremist gives plenty of room and opportunity for ruling parties to silence the opposition. Unless the definition is not precise, it will be difficult to give an impartial judgement in such cases. And, as long as a fair middle ground isn’t established between the two sides of the story, what Dwight D. Eisenhower once said will continue to ring true: “Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”

Reporter- Sukruthi Sanampudi

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