Archive for April 2008
Only now, thanks to the work of Sergei Shpilkin, a Russian physicist and computer programmer, do we find out the actual results of the recent presidential election in Russia.
The Kremlin claimed there was 69.7% voter turnout. Not true. According to Shpilkin, turnout was actually only 56%.
The Kremlin claimed that Dmitri Medvedev won with 70.3% of the vote, but in fact he only got 63%, Shpilkin says.
As Times Online states: ” On a reduced turnout, this meant that only a third of Russia’s 100 million voters [37.7 million of them] supported Mr Medvedev, far from the overwhelming endorsement claimed by the Kremlin.”
So, two-thirds of Russian voters withheld their support from Medvedev on election day. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that all the liberal candidates had their names removed from the ballots before election day, and many activists were prevented from political demonstrations. As reported on this blog, I for instance was drafted into the army and sent to Ryazan, far from Moscow, to be released only after the election. It stands to reason, then, that if they had been allowed to campaign against Medvedev, his final tally would have been even lower. Maybe, he wouldn’t have won at all.
This is why we believe there is plenty of reason to hope for democratic reform in Russia, if activists like us can galvanize the country in the proper way.
Early April marked a new wave of opposition coalition building. Three events took place in each of the three main political camps. Liberals gathered in St. Petersburg on 5 April, the leftists met in Moscow on 6 April and the nationalists had their convention on 12 April. The goal of each of these events was to unite the majority of political forces of the corresponding wings.
The liberal conference in St. Petersburg founded a coordinating group, whose task is to prepare the creation of a new democratic or liberal movement. This group included Garry Kasparov of United Civil Front (OGF), former and present SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov and Nikita Belykh, and St. Petersburg Yabloko head Maxim Reznik. Mikhail Kasyanov’s Russian People’s Democrat Union (NDS) movement claimed it would also join the body, as did the Oborona movement. Yabloko’s long-time leader Grigory Yavlinsky has notably ignored this initiative.
In St. Petersburg, in the early morning hours of April 1st (April Fool’s Day, and the day on which the spring call-up of Russian youth for military service was ironically to begin), persons unknown surrounded the local draft board office with construction ribbons, as shown above, blocking access by military officials who arrived in the morning to commence the draft proceedings.
The area was also leafleted heavily, all long the streets leading to the nearest subway station, as shown above. The leaflets announced “the beginning of hunting season on people” and stated that “young people are wanted for transfer into slavery.”
We believe that this anonymous action was intended to express a protest against the start of the spring conscription cycle in particular, and against the concept of an involuntary military in general.
In anticipation of the March the authorities took aggressive action to prevent it and intimidate those who participated. We were banned from deploying any banners. But we did so anyway. There were over two hundred participants, including members of such groups as Memorial and For Human Rights, as well as ordinary citizens concerned with the rights of Russia’s conscripts. We marched shoulder-to-shoulder to the Ostakino TV Tower proclaiming: “We need a new army! End military slavery now!”
The March culminated with a concert at the TV tower, and then dispersed. On the way ot the subway station, a gang of thugs attacked several members, but did not succeed in provoking us to violence as was undoubtedly their aim.
We, citizens of Russia, believe that service in the army should be voluntary, and that the institution of draft-slavery is an unacceptable anachronism in a modern society. Those who are not inclined to military service can serve their country in other ways. Universal military conscription must end now!
We believe that a strong army can only be made up of volunteers, not conscripts consisting of poorly trained and equipped slaves who are often subjected to torture and murder, always victimized by officers looking for free labor. We, the citizens of Russia, demand a strong army. A volunteer army is a strong army!
We demand immediate changes in the legislation of the Russian Federation on Military Duty and Military Service, deleting all provisions relating to forced conscription, the repeal of the articles of the Penal Code applicable to draft evasion, the cessation of all criminal cases under this heading, and full amnesty for all convicted this article. We demand the immediate cessation of the so-called “raids on fugitives from the call,” especially given the fact that many victims of these raids have legitimate deferment or exemption from conscription. In fact, we strongly demand the cessation of criminal mass kidnappings for recruitment by illegal means.
We can change the situation in the Russian army. We can say “NO” state arbitrariness. All that we have to do is . . . say it loud and clear as one.