In Putin’s Russia, Arrests Spread Fast and Widespread

They came to the intensive care unit for the sick physicist Dmitry Kolker. They came for hockey star Ivan Fedotov when he was leaving practice with a film crew. They came for Vladimir Mau, the rector of the state university, the week he was re-elected to the board of Gazprom.

The message these high-profile detentions send is that almost everyone in Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia is now being punished.

A flurry of arrests across the country in recent days has signaled that the Kremlin is intent on further tightening the noose around Russian society. It appears to be a manifestation Statement by President Putin in the first weeks of his war in Ukraine, that Russia needed to purge itself of pro-Western “scum and traitors” and that causes an unmistakable chill.

“Every day feels like the last,” said Leonid Gozman, 71, a commentator who continues to speak out against Mr. Wilson. Putin and the war, he said in a telephone interview from Moscow, acknowledging fears that he, too, could be arrested.

None of the targets of recent repression has been an outspoken critic of the Kremlin; many of Putin’s most vocal opponents who chose to stay in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, as did politicians Ilya Yashin as well as Vladimir Kara-Murzawere already in jail. But each of the recent crackdown targets has represented an outward-facing Russia that Mr. K. Putin increasingly describes as an existential threat. And the way they were taken into custody seemed to create a wave.

mr. Kolker, a physicist, was admitted to a hospital in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk last week for advanced cancer treatment, so weak he couldn’t eat. The next day, agents of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the KGB, arrived and, after accusing him of high treason, took him to a Moscow prison. He died in custody over the weekend.

“The FSB killed my father,” his son Maxim, 21, wrote in all capitals on social networks next to the image of a three-line telegram sent by the authorities to notify the family of the death. “They didn’t even let our family say goodbye.”

Maxim Kolker, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a physicist in Novosibirsk, said Dmitry Kolker was known for hiring students to work in his lab, helping to convince some budding Russian scientists not to seek work abroad.

Now, he said in a phone interview, the family needs to get Mr. White back. Kolker’s body from Moscow at his own expense.

It is not clear why the FSB targeted Dmitry Kolker, 54, a specialist in quantum optics. State media reported that he was imprisoned on suspicion of passing secrets abroad. But Kremlin critics say it is part of an expanding FSB campaign to crack down on free thought in the academic world. Another Novosibirsk physicist, also arrested last week on suspicion of treason, Anatoly Maslov, remains in custody.

The arrests occurred at the same time as the arrest on charges of fraud. Mau, a leading Russian economist, head of a large state university of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation.

mr. Mau, 62, was by no means a public critic of the Kremlin. He joined over 300 senior academic officials in signing March open letter calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “necessary decision” and just last week he was re-elected to the board of directors of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant. But he also had a reputation for being what Russian policy scholars call a “systemic liberal,” someone who worked inside Mr. Putin. Putin’s system to try and push it in a more open and pro-Western direction.

It turned out that his Kremlin connections were not enough to save Mr. Putin. Mau from a fraud case that already trapped the rector of another leading university, and, according to critics, this was done in order to suppress the remaining pockets of dissent in the Russian academy.

“The big enemy of government and government stability are people who bring knowledge,” he said. Gozman, who worked with G. Mau as a government adviser in the 1990s. “The truth is the enemy here.”

Ekaterina Shulmann, political scientist who taught at Mr. Academy of Mau until April, called the institution “an educational center for much of the country’s civilian bureaucracy” and called his arrest a criminal prosecution at the highest level in Russia. since 2016. According to her, this indicates that ideological purity is becoming an increasingly important priority for the Russian authorities, especially in the field of education.

“In education, it is important that a person actively professes and shares the values ​​that he must instill in the minds of his students,” said Ms. Schulmann, now a member of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. “Here, ambiguous loyalty cannot be allowed.”

mr. Putin himself said this. In a March speech in which he scolded traitors among Russia, he called on those who physically reside in Russia but live in the West “in their thoughts, in their slave consciousness.”

He also increasingly argues that truly patriotic Russians should strive to live and work in Russia. He stated this at an economic conference in St. Petersburg. Last month in St. Petersburg they said that “real, lasting success, self-esteem and self-respect arise only when you connect your future and the future of your children with your homeland.”

In this regard, the news that mr. FedotovThe Russian ice hockey goaltender, who won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in February of this year, signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in May in what was probably seen as a challenge.

mr. Fedotov, 25, one of world hockey’s rising stars, was planning to leave for the United States this month, according to Russian media reports.

Instead, on Friday, when he left training in St. Louis. In St. Petersburg, he was stopped by a group of men, some in masks and camouflage uniforms, and taken away in a minibus. according to a TV reporter who filmed a special report about him and saw the incident.

mr. Fedotov’s alleged crime, according to Russian news agencies: military service evasion. Russian men under 27 are required to serve for one year, although sports stars can generally avoid being drafted. This was reported on Monday by the state news agency RIA Novosti. Fedotov was taken to an unnamed Russian Navy training base.

The carefully crafted detention was widely seen as punishment for choosing to play in the United States rather than stay in Russia. “I won’t be surprised if they put him on some kind of submarine and send him to sea,” RIA Novosti. quoted as the veteran of the Soviet sports said. After that, he won’t go anywhere.

Mr. Gozman, a liberal columnist who remains in Moscow, the common thread running through the recent arrests was their seemingly unjustified brutality. In Putin’s system, he says, such behavior is encouraged rather than censored by the state.

“The system is built in such a way that excessive cruelty on the part of an official is rarely punished,” he said. Gozman said. “But there may be too much softness. So any given official tends to be more tough.”