Called the “godfather” of the plant by St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko during the event for his early involvement in the project, Medvedev talked about taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the plant as first deputy prime minister in 2006.
“I was given a shovel as a souvenir, which I still keep at my dacha with other gardening tools,” Medvedev, a St. Petersburg native, said before inspecting the interior of a Chevy Captiva midsize SUV presumably right off the assembly line.
—“Medvedev Warms Up at GM Plant Opening,” Moscow Times November 10, 2008
Because we were busy reporting on the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, we didn’t get round to summarizing or translating this bulletin, which was posted on the website of the Institute for Collective Action on January 25. To tell the truth, we hoped that the threats made against GM Saint Petersburg trade union leader Yevgeny Ivanov wouldn’t come true.
In January, Ivanov went public with the fact that persons unknown had been calling him and making threats. He informed the RIA Novosti news agency that someone had called him and said, “You made a mistake when you announced the formation of a trade union. It seems like you don’t care about your family.”
The formation of the trade union at the GM Petersburg plant (located in the suburb of Shushary) was announced in mid-January. The union is an affiliate of the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA). Seventy of the plant’s nine hundred workers joined the new union, whose stated goal is to obtain regular wage increases for workers through a collective bargaining agreement.
Even before the creation of the new union was announced, however, Ivanov began receiving threats. Although Ivanov reported these incidents to the police, they refused to open a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, his comrades at the ITUA collected money so that Ivanov could get his family out of the city.
Now Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty) has reported that Ivanov was attacked today (February 8, 2009) near the entrance to his house. The two assailants, according to Ivanov, said, “Greetings from the trade union!” before hitting him in the face several times. Doctors who treated Ivanov after the incident determined that he has suffered a concussion.
Like attacks against other social and political activists, assaults against trade union leaders have become all too common in Russia in recent months. We have already reported the two attacks against Ford-Vsevolozhsk union leader Alexei Etmanov, in November of last year, as well as attacks on Sergei Bryzgalov and Alexei Gramm, activists in the ITUA-affiliated union at the TagAZ plant in Taganrog, in southern Russia.