Posts Tagged ‘opposition groups’
Today I resigned as a Coordinator of Oborona after being at this position for more than five years–almost since its establishment. It was a planned decision. I want to help new leaders with fresh ideas emerge in the group. Russian opposition badly needs new faces and I don’t want to stand in their way.
As for me, I will most probably dedicate myself to a new project whose goal is to help the democratic movement in general overcome some of its worst problems. I will explain more about this project later, as it gets more specific, but anyway it shouldn’t be associated with any existing groups or movements.
I will keep doing all I can to strenghten the Russian civil society. I hope that now, I’ll be able to make it in a better way.
Earlier this week, two Oborona activists were arrested in Moscow and later released without explanation. Head of the Information Department (i.e. official spokesperson) of Moscow police Col. Viktor Biryukov claimed that it was done to prevent some illegal protest action. He also added proudly that “the police learnt about preparation of this action while reading e-mail communications between Oborona activists.”
It’s not a news that the police monitors communications of the opposition, but it must be the first time it was officially confirmed by a high-ranking police officer. Apart from being antidemocratic and unconstitutional, it also violates the law, which puts rather strict limitations on this kind of activities.
Besides, immediately after Oborona issued a statement on this case and promised to arrange investigation of illegal activities of the Moscow police, Biryukov denied his own words. He said, “the Moscow police only work strictly within the law, and in the case of Oborona activists, their correspondence haven’t been monitored.”
The arrested Oborona activists are going to file a complaint to a prosecutor to demand investigation into Biryukov’s claims.
No matter what Russian government says, the people are more and more willing to protest. Two weeks after the huge demonstration in Kaliningrad and another violent dispersing of a peaceful rally in Moscow, more cities join the protest wave.
Despite -15 C (5 F) temperature, about 2000 citizens of Irkutsk participated in a public meeting today to defend Baikal lake, the world largest reserve of freshwater. The protest was caused by a recent decree by Vladimir Putin that allowed a local papermaking factory, reportedly owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to pour waste into the lake. One of the leaders of Solidarnost Vladimir Milov took part in the rally as well as environmentalists, NGO leaders and the head of Yabloko Sergei Mitrokhin. Along with environmentalist slogans, the protesters chanted “Down with Putin’s government!” and “Shame on United Russia!”
United Russia together with the factory’s owners tried to hold their own demonstration in support of the Putin’s decree simultaniously but only managed to bring several hundred participants.
In Samara, 1200 people demanded resignation of their regional governor Vladimir Artyakov. The demonstration was organized by local trade unions. Many protesters from other cities couldn’t make it to Samara because their coaches were stopped by the traffic police; this is a usual preventive measure against the opposition. The rally was held in spite of this, without serious incidents. The region experiences huge problems because the VAZ car factory, its largest enterprise, is close to bankrupcy. Artyakov, who was connected to VAZ, is accused by the people of being unable to cope with the situation. The protesters also demanded direct elections of governors and resignation of Vladimir Putin’s government (Artyakov was appointed by Putin in 2007).
I haven’t recently had time to blog here a lot, sorry about that. Here are some interesting things that happened in the last month or two:
1. Oborona started its English blog (not so many entries yet) and held its second summer training camp Partizan-2009 near Volga river. The camp lasted four days and was packed with training, workshops, discussions etc. Journalists and guests from other democratic organizations participated along with Oborona activists.
Here are some camp photos and a video clip (in Russian):
3. For the first time, an individual is sent to prison officially for criticizing the government. Alexey Nikiforov, an opposition leader in Yekaterinburg, was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for “extremism”: his “crime” was organizing of several peaceful and legal public protest actions. The court considered slogans “Down with the police state!” and “I don’t want to live in a fascist state” extremism. Previously, courts used to sentence “extremists” to conditional terms, not the real ones.
4. Another court in Krasnodarsky Kray found the slogan “Freedom is not given, it is taken” extremism and ordered to ban Novorossiysk Committee for Human Rights, which used that slogan at one public action. The court decision says,
…the call to “take” freedom means that individual rights have priority over the state’s [rights]. Thus, the slogan “Freedom is not given, it is taken” is of extremist nature.
5. While Dmitry Medvedev calls (once again) to “strengthen democracy” and even criticizes political repression (abstract, not the ones that take place in today’s Russia), one of the Moscow’s busiest metro stations Kurskaya now proudly features a quotation from the Soviet anthem of 1943:
Stalin brought us up — on loyalty to the people,
He inspired us to labor and to heroism.
6. All seven Solidarity’s candidates to the Moscow City Duma were denied registration by the Electoral Commissions. In some cases, the reasons were unbelievably absurd and almost unexplainable (like lack of certain unnecessary hints in subscription forms). Even members of the “official opposition” Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) party were also denied registration. Therefore, there will be almost no competition in these elections.
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.