What is Center E? A former agent for Russia’s secretive Anti-Extremism Center explains how ‘eshniki’ crack down on protesters and prosecute online activity

At any mass protest in Russia, a careful eye can spot officers in civilian dress pointing video cameras at the crowd. From time to time, the same officers quietly guide police toward individual protesters, who are immediately arrested. Behind the scenes, the very same people are also responsible for bringing criminal cases against Russian citizens who share supposedly extremist posts on social media. These officials work for Center E. The internal structure of the center remains poorly understood, so we talked it through with former Center E employee Vladimir Vorontsov. Since leaving the center, Vorontsov has become known for creating a popular online support organization for police officers.