Archive for May 2008
I’ve given my first major interview to a Western media outlet following my release from prison to Deutsche Welle German radio. Here’s the translation:
* * *
Oleg Kozlovsky, the coordinator of the youth movement “Defense,” arrested for intent to participate in a “March of Dissenters,” believes that Russian law enforcement was in fact not executing the criminal code but rather instructions from on high. Having just gained his freedom after serving a 13-day sentence, he tells Deutsche Welle his story.
Deutsche Welle: Oleg, using the phraseology of Russia’s new president, is freedom is better than the lack of freedom?
Oleg Kozlovsky: Of course, based on recent my personal experience I can’t dispute this thesis.
DW: What is it about your work the authorities do not like? Why did you spent 13 days behind bars?
OK: I think that those in power have accumulated irritation against me for my protest activities, and they tried, one after another, different methods of combating their opponents. The first arrests were ineffectual because the charges were minor and resulted only brief periods of a few hours behind bars. But as time has passed the authorities have apparently begun to fear that a mass movement is developing, and they’ve begun to impose more draconian measures. So they’ve invented new charges to put against us.
Here I am shortly after being released from Russian prison yesterday after serving a 13-day sentence for the prohibited act of walking peacefully down a Moscow street. I look a little worse for wear because I refused to eat while in prison as a way of protesting against the obviously illegal nature of my arrest and trial.
My colleagues at Oborona rushed me to a restaurant to have my first meal and toast my freedom.
Unfortunately, while I was in prison I was unable to attend the formative meeting of the new National Assembly shadow parliament protest organization that I played key role in conceiving. I suspect that the length of my sentence, several times longer than that given to other protesters, was designed in part to achieve this result.
Look for more details about my arrest, trial and time in prison as well as about the National Assembly and the continuation of my protest activity in coming days.
I’d like to offer a warm welcome to readers who are visiting this blog for the first time after seeing my op-ed column in the Washington Post newspaper (a reverse translation into Russian appears here). As you can see by reviewing the contents of this blog, I’m currently in jail on spurious charges of civil disobedience following my May 6th arrest, and am due to be released on May 19th or 20th (whether that will actually happen is anyone’s guess). I’ve declared a hunger strike to protest the illegal character of my arrest.
Feel free to just browse around, but let me draw your attention to the most essential contents of this new English-language blog which are available now.
First, several essays I’ve written explaining my politics:
Second, two interviews I’ve given recently to the press:
These five items represent the core contents of my blog at present and you can learn much about me from them. You can also read news articles about me from the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, and if you browse the blog you will find many other posts detailing the recent activities of my organization, including its protests over my most recent arrest, which is mentioned in my Post column.
I and my colleagues are very much interested in receiving your support in our struggle for democracy in Russia. If you’d like to help, please leave a comment on one of my blog posts with your contact information, or get in touch with me through the “About Me” page on this blog.
I cannot possibly express sufficient gratitude to the Washington Post, both for publishing a major news story about my illegal induction into the military and then allowing me space on its op-ed pages to discuss my views on Russia and the Kremlin’s more recent program of harassment. It’s no understatement to say that I may owe my life to the paper, as well as to the many others — especially those in Russia on the front lines — who have risked all to fight for our common cause.
I will work as hard as I can to make sure I do not betray this confidence.
As several prior posts describe, I’ve been arrested and sentenced to two weeks in prison in a preemptive strike designed to stop me from leading protest actions against the sham presidential election results and from helping to form a new shadow parliament organization. I’m far from the only opposition activist who has been treated in this way. The following is a translation of a May 15 post from the Oborona website:
On May 14 the Basman Court of Moscow levied a fine of 1000 rubles against the Oborona activist Ivan Simochkin for walking along Chistoprudniy Boulevard on May 6.
The court reached its verdict despite the testimony of six eyewitnesses for the defense, who testified that unknown individuals dressed in civilian clothes and showing no identification detained Mr. Simochkin without warning. The ruling of the court indicated that the testimony of the witnesses was not taken into account, because “the witnesses were called only to mitigate the punishment of the accused.”
Following is the speech which Ivan Simochkin read in court.
Someone not familiar with Russian law might think that the solitary picketer shown at above, holding a sign that reads “FREE OLEG KOZLOVSKY” and standing in front of the office of the prosecutor that interned me on May 7th (see further information in the posts below), indicates that not many people support me.
In fact, that’s not the case. Under Russian law, if more than one person wants to carry out a picket protest, then the state must issue a permit in advance or all are subject to instant arrest. As you can well imagine, a Kremlin that wouldn’t hesitate to have me arrested on baseless charges wouldn’t hesitate to deny such a permit, or claim it had been violated once issued. However, the law does not apply to a single protester. Therefore, Oborona is often forced to place lone members in harm’s way if we want to carry out a protest action over any length of time.
Of course, you can well imagine what sort of harassment a single protester might face, and if you can’t imagine then you can watch what happened next in this YouTube video.
Oborona reports that the pickets began on May 14 and the picketer, Sergei Eroshkin, was confronted by OMON stormtroopers with in ten minutes. Sergei explained his right to be present and cited the appropriate legal provision, but as you can see the OMON ignored this information and pursued the cameraman who was filming the protest as well. In a new twist, Oborona reports that when Sergei refused to submit to the OMON’s orders, there soon appeared a police plant agent holding a sign that also called for my freedom, and he attempted to take up a position near Sergei. Realizing that the police were attempting to create artificial means to justify his arrest as an illegal “mass protester,” Sergei left the scene.
Soon after Sergei left a second Oborona activist, Suren Edigarov, appeared waving an Oborona flag, but the OMON pounced on him almost immediately, shoving him to the ground and then throwing him into a police bus. He was charged with mass picketing.
Oborona plans to continue the picketing effort until I am released. I am being denied legal representation (read my lawyer’s statement here) and visitation and being held in solitary confinement.
By the way, if you are wondering how I’m able to speak to you while being held in a Russian prison on illegal charges . . . you can bet the Kremlin is also wondering. So let’s let them continue to wonder, shall we?
The Oborona website reports that, in an apparent effort to wish my mother a “happy Mother’s Day” (actually, this holiday isn’t celebrated in Russia), I’ve been made to disappear.
As indicated in a prior post, I’ve been arrested on clearly fraudulent charges of civil disobedience in order to block his participation in the formation of a new shadow parliament organization. As Garry Kasparov wrote in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend:
Oleg Kozlovsky, a member of the Other Russia opposition coalition leadership, was given 13 days in prison. Arrest reports for him came from two officers, each giving a different time and place of arrest. According to the judge, this curious fact “was not related to the case.”
When my mother and attorney tried to meet with me over the weekend, as Oborona relates, they were denied access and not only that — the authorities refused even to confirm my whereabouts. The authorities were already denying me family visitation, according to Oborona.
On May 12th at 4:30 pm I was scheduled to appear in court to pursue an appeal of my conviction.
Try as they will, my foes cannot silence the voice of freedom. It will be heard. The Kremlin can make me disappear, but it can’t silence my blog or my compatriots at Oborona or my friends and supporters around the world.
Links to reports on the arrests on the Russian Internet can be found here.
UPDATE: Oborona now reports that the appellate court reviewed my sentence and confirmed it. Numerous photographs of me at the time of my arrest were shown proving that I was not engaged in civil disobedience but merely walking on a public street (though, granted, on the day a major protest action was scheduled to occur); the judge disregarded them, calling them “biased.” He refused to issue a subpoena for the testimony of the arresting officers. When the decision was announced the Oborona members assembled to view the proceedings chanted: “Shame! Shame! Shame!” A picket campaign is now being organized on a daily basis outside my prison.
Click the jump to view photos of me at my court appearance.
(By the way, if you’re wondering how I can continue to post to my blog even though I’m in prison and in fact my whereabouts are currently unknown, you can bet the Kremlin is wondering too. Let’s let them wonder, shall we?)
Here is a translation of a report from the Russian website Grani.ru:
A Basman court in Moscow on May 7th sentenced Oborona Coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky to 13 days of administrative arrest. As reported by the press service of the Other Russia coalition, Kozlovsky, who considers the decision illegal, has declared a hunger strike. According to Other Russia, Kozlovsky’s trial was fraught with procedural irregularities: Court documents appeared to allege that Kozlovsky had been in two different places at the same time and had been detained by two different police officers. The trial judge, however, stated that “it has nothing to do with the case.” All the defense witnesses were removed from the courtroom.
Kozlovsky is to regain his freedom the day after the conclusion of the first meeting of the opposition coalition’s National Assembly, a shadow parliament organization. Kozlovsky was one of the organizers of the Assembly, so his colleagues do not doubt that his arrest and sentencing have been calculated to prevent Kozlovsky participation in the Assembly.
Another Oborona member, Ivan Afonin, who was arrested with Kozlovsky and received a six-day sentence, also announced a hunger strike. Earlier the court had handed out similar sentences to journalist Alexander Weinstein, journalist and activist Maxim Polyakov and Oborona member Vladimir Akimenkov.
May 8th was my birthday! A jolly gift I received from the Kremlin! If you click here, you will see a photograph taken of the outside of my prison, where my comrades gathered to celebrate the occasion, unfortunately in my absence. They decorated it with orange balloons — the color of revolution in Eastern Europe — and spray-painted the message “here Oleg Kozlovsky completed his 24th year of life” on the wall. Then they drank a toast to my health.
The Oborona blog explains that I was preemptively arrested by plainclothes police on May 6th while not engaged in any form of protest activity. When I was removed from court after the sentencing, my comrades, surrounded by OMON officers, chanted: “FREE OLEG KOZLOVSKY.” This is not the first time the chant has been heard in Moscow’s streets and elsewhere. Likely, it will not be the last.
Try as they will, my foes cannot silence the voice of freedom. It will be heard.
On May 1 in St. Petersburg Oborona activists, along with other opponents of the status quo in Russia, held a “march for freedom and justice.” The participants paraded along Nevsky Prospect, the main street of the city and other principal streets of the “Northern Capital”, carrying a banner that boldly called for “CHANGE!” (see photo above) and then held a rally at Pioneer Square. The dissenters chanted slogans such as: “We need another Russia!” and “Putin, go skiing in Magadan!”and “The Plan of Putin is Russia poverty!”and “This is our city!”
The event ended with a concert hosted by actor Alexei Devotchenko, a member of the United Civil Front (FSI). He invited opposition leaders express themselves in the language of music, calling Putin’s regime “illegitimate” and condemning the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the activities of state. He followed Garry Kasparov, who said that United Russia was “looting” the country. Andrei Illarionov also spoke, asking those assembled to remember those who could not be present because they had been incarcerated, and calling for freedom for all political prisoners of the Putin regime.
To watch video of the protest march, click here.