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I sin tale til nasjonen onsdag spilte Vladimir Putin på de mest paranoide trekk fra stalintiden, og lovte å knuse alle krefter som får hjelp fra utlandet for å svekke Russland. For utenforstående hørtes det ut som om menneskerettighetsgrupper står for tur.

Det er påfallende så ofte man åpner en utenlandsk avis og ser at en begivenhet gis en helt annen tyngde, og har hatt en vinkel som norske ikke får med seg. NYTimes fremstilte Putins tale som dramatisk for russisk demokrati:

Putin Accuses Critics of Working for Foreign Powers
By SETH MYDANS

In a televised state of the nation speech – his first since his re-election by an overwhelming majority in March – Mr. Putin singled out private groups in Russia that he said claimed to support the welfare of the people but were in fact serving other foreign and domestic masters for pay.

His words, which harked back to Soviet times, caught human rights advocates and other civic organizations off guard and seemed to provide a rationale for future restrictions on their activities.

Med fengslingen av Mikhail Khodorkovskij og skattesaken mot Yukos har Putin demonstrert at han vil tukte næringslivet og ikke tåler opposisjon. Mediene er allerede tuktet. Nå er turen kommet til uavhengige grupper og institusjoner som nyter godt av utenlandsk støtte, av typen Soros Foundation eller Carnegie Endowment.

Rather than defending «the real interests of the people,» Mr. Putin said, the priority of some independent groups is «getting financing from influential foreign and domestic foundations, while others serve dubious group and commercial interests.»

His language paralleled that used by leaders in some other post-Soviet states, like Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, who have used this pretext to crack down on organizations that critique government activities. Many receive financing from international foundations that advocate democracy and human rights.

«I have to say that when it concerns violations of fundamental human rights and infringements upon real interests of the people, the voice of those organizations is often unheard,» Mr. Putin said. «Actually there is nothing strange about that. They cannot bite the hand that feeds them.»

Tanya Lokshina, a human rights campaigner with the Moscow Helsinki group, said she was «flabbergasted» to hear such strong language in a major speech.

«Naturally it has been evident for quite a while that the regime in Russia is nothing but authoritarian and that it is exterminating all independent forces in society,» she said.

After neutering opposition political parties and the press, she said, civic and human rights groups were the logical next target. But in the past, words like this have come from lower-level officials, she said.

When the president included them in what is the government’s fundamental policy document, Ms. Lokshina said, «He indicates to all the state officials: ‘Here you are. This is your next enemy. Jump’ «

Man får inntrykk av at det råder en oppfatning av hvordan Russland skal presenteres: Noen betenkelige trekk, men helhetsinntrykket er ikke så galt. Putin er en mann vi kan gjøre business med. Det er de uuttalte retningslinjene, og journalistene følger lydig opp.

Stilt opp mot hva som er Russlands nære fortid, og vår geografiske beliggenhet, er dette ganske utrolig.