Monthly Archives: August 2010

Sign a Petition in Defense of the Khimki Forest

This petition was drafted by Ekooborona (Eco-Defense), the grassroots organization founded by Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest.

http://ecmo.ru/signs/alternative/#english

Here is the full text of the petition in English:

To President of Russia Mr. Medvedev

Dear Mr. President,

We, undersigned, ask you to review the new Moscow – St. Petersburg toll motorway placement (section 15 – 58 km) in order to minimize environmental damage to the Khimki Forest Park’s eco-system. In the preliminary Act of the Choice of Land Plot there were two options alternative to the currently chosen motorway option through the center of Khimki Forest Park. Both alternatives did not left the Forest Park completely intact, but they inflicted substantially lower damage to its eco-system than the currently chosen option. Nevertheless, the alternative options were discarded without any serious technical and economical analysis, under doubtful pretexts, without any analysis of public opinion.

Moreover, according to independent experts (including the director of Russian Scientific Institute for Transportation Mr. Mikhail Blinkin), there is an option for the road placement which almost don’t require any clearing of forests. The conclusion is based on the known plans of extension of the new Moscow – St. Petersburg motorway to the territory of Moscow (segment 0 – 15 km) within the framework of the so-called “Severnaya Rokada” project. In this project, the use of the area adjoining to Oktyabrskaya railroad is planned for the motorway construction. Such an approach allows one to build the road along a virtually direct line, within a very densely populated area, without clearing of forest parks and green zones, but also without displacement of population.

No one among the perpetrators of the project in its current state has given any plausible answer to the following question: Why the motorway is diverted to almost 10 kilometers from the direct line making a “loop” within Khimki Forest Park on the section 15 – 58 km instead of following the same way along the existing railroad as it is planned for the segment 0 – 15 km?

The option of routing the motorway along the existing railroad is mentioned in official study results by the project’s concessioner (NWCC LLC – a daughter structure of Vinci group). It is admitted that there is still no technical and economical analysis for this option. It is extremely strange, since this option seems to be an optimal one taking into account its technical and environmental features. Indeed, the motorway would be almost direct, about 10 km shorter than according to the officially adopted option via Khimki Forest Park. The road would approach densely populated zones of Khimki only within a section about 1 km in length (just after passing the Moscow – Volga Channel, on its right bank). It is better than the currently chosen option. Indeed, today it is planned, for the motorway construction, to clear a unique forest strip separating residential buildings of “Levoberezhny” district from a giant open dumping ground. The dumping ground makes environmental condition in this district extremely poor even without auxiliary negative effect of both the clearing of the forest strip, and construction of the motorway.

In case of building the new motorway along Oktyabrskaya railroad, it will subsequently cross the following objects after passing the Moscow – Volga channel:

• A small industrial zone on the right bank of the channel,

• The territories of a marketplace and of a shopping square,

• An existing automobile bridge over Oktyabrskaya railroad.

Then the motorway will be confined to a long industrial zone around the railroad, almost to the very end of Khimki Town. No one of the above mentioned objects has a value compatible with the value of Khimki Forest Park. Moreover, the use of an overhead option for the construction of the road allows one to use further the shopping areas as well as industrial zones below it.

The only green zone that can be cleared for such a project is on the left bank of the Moscow-Volga channel. Its total length is about a few hundred meters – which is far better than according to the existing variant where the motorway crosses forest lands on a segment about 10 km in length.

Since the motorway’s option near Oktyabrskaya railroad is about 10 km shorter than the currently chosen option via Khimki Forest Park – its realization may become cheaper. There may appear a possibility to use remaining funds to make a tunnel where the road will be passing near residential buildings (less than 1 km in length, approximately – from the marketplace to the existing bridge over Oktyabrskaya railroad). Such an option would be an ideal one from both technical and environmental points of view.

Moreover, another suitable option is completely not considered – i.e., construction of the new motorway along the existing Leningradskoe Shosse. Within Moscow (including bridge over Moscow – Volga channel) the width of the existing highway was recently enlarged up to 7 – 8 rows in each direction within the frameworks of the project “Bol’shaya Leningradka”. In Khimki, this road ends up in a “shopping street” of 3 or 4 rows in each direction. The enlargement of the existing street (or building of a parallel motorway) is impeded by adjoining shopping malls and their parking lots. It seems than in the present state of things the partial use of the shopping malls’ lands for the motorway construction would not lead to negative social consequences compatible with ones in case of building the motorway through the forest park territory. Moreover, the use of overhead option for the motorway construction would allow one to use the lands below it, for example, as parking lots.

According to the study of Transparency International – R, the choice of the existing option of the motorway placement within Khimki Forest Park can be linked to a conflict of interest in the upper levels of Russian Ministry for Transportation. It is known that the present Minister of Transportation, Mr. Levitin is, the same time, one of the chief executives of Sheremetyevo Airport, as well as of the largest commercial carrier based there – Aeroflot Company. No doubt, from the point of view of the airport the current option that allows the motorway to approach Sheremetyevo airport is an advantageous one. But this option is below any criticism from the point of view of handling the transport flow between Moscow and St.Petersburg. For example, according to the mentioned study of the project concessioner, the choice of the current option (i.e., following a “loop” within forest lands) leads to drop of the planned transport flow speed by at least 30 km/h. International expertise shows that the motorways must be as direct as possible, and exits to airports and other similar objects must be arranged as separate local roads, with no damage to overall technical ratings of motorways.

Moreover, there are well-known plans for commercial development of forest lands on both sides of the motorway by Moscow District Governor office. These plans are described in Decree 358/16 by Governor Gromov (now cancelled), as well as in the Plan for Mosow District Territory Planning (July 11, 2007) (still actual). Commercial development of adjoining forest lands is, according to experts in transportation, proven fatal for the very idea of the motorway (as it has already happened, for example, with Moscow Ring Road).

We ask you to cancel the decision about the motorway placement on the lands of Khimki Forest Park, as well as immediate stop of any works performing in connection with this option. We demand you to authorize detailed examination of all the available alternative options for the motorway placement, first of all – of the option of the motorway’s placement along Oktyabrskaya railroad. The examination should be carried out by an independent expert commission, ideally – with the participation of Russian and international experts. After this, an open public discussion must be carried out on the final choice of the motorway placement.

Please sign the petition here.

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Solidarity with Ferrexpo Mineworkers (Poltava, Ukraine)

A major dispute is underway between mineworkers in Poltava, in West Ukraine, and Ferrexpo Plc, a major player on the global market mainly engaged in mining of iron ore.  All three shifts in the open cast in the town of Komsomolsk, of more than 300 workers each, are now involved in industrial action. Some railway locomotive drivers and workers on the iron ore concentrating factory have joined in solidarity.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The action started on August 1 at 10 AM when the workers at the ore-dressing open cast pit started at first with a go-slow and work-to-rule. The action began when haul trucks drivers on their way down to the 305-meter-deep quarry reduced the speed of the vehicles from the normal 40-45 km/h to the more safe 10-15 km/h.  Excavator and bulldozer operators, as well as drilling technicians, then joined the action in solidarity.  Within 24 hours of the workers action, total rock production had fallen by less than 60% of normal volume.  This impact of the workers resistance is continuing.

The cause of the dispute was a recent re-evaluation of workplaces which led to the opencast mine workers being moved from the ‘first list’ (which implies heavy-load conditions) to the ‘second list’.  This means abolition of a number of benefits:

  • The retirement age will be lifted from 50 to 55 years;
  • required working life will be increased from 20 to 25 years;
  • required length of service at heavy-load workplaces – from 10 to 12.6;
  • 10 days will be cut from annual holiday entitlement

Evaluation is done every 5 years; after the previous one, workers kept their ‘first list’. Since then their trucks became older, while the mine grew even deeper. Despite the fact that the certification of job hazard categories is in contravention of Ukrainian law, all legal means to contest it led to protracted and unresolved cases in the courts.

Over the last year, management has used lies and blackmail to increase production rates; however each time rates were raised at the end of the month, the workers were left without their deserved bonuses. To fulfill quotas, truck drivers routinely have to transgress the legal speed limit.  Until recently, the highest speed has been 25-32 km/h (depending on the make of vehicle), while truck drivers have to drive at 40-45 km/h.

The company still considered production was growing too slowly.  The company used this to deny workers their bonuses. The bonus in question could reach 1000 UAH which is a significant proportion of the average wage (4500 UAH). Meanwhile, during the last two years workers’ incomes have dropped almost fourfold due to inflation and currency devaluation.

Working hours have also been increased from 8 to 12 per day. Also, drivers of heavy haulers (90-136 tons Belaz, Caterpillar and Komatsu mining trucks) are now being officially registered simply as ‘drivers’.

In response to this intolerable situation the industrial action is continuing; judging from the results of the first week, management isn’t eager to look for constructive solutions. With their every step, the factory management has sought to escalate the dispute.

After workers had announced the beginning of their action in the media, the Ferrexpo company press department launched a disinformation campaign trying to refute and misrepresent the workers action. After video of interviews with workers of the mine had been shown, the press began to side with the workers. In response, the company has adopted a new tactic of seeking to enter into negotiations, whilst launching a new press campaign in order to assure the Ukrainian and foreign media that there is no threat of a full stoppage of production at the mine, and that the action doesn’t affect the enterprise’s revenues.

Meanwhile, at a meeting with the region’s deputy governor, workers were invited to stop the industrial action, and a new commission for evaluation would be instituted. Workers, fearing deception, continued their action, and the next day, August 4, the management issued order #1800 by which it has unilaterally scrapped a number of safety rules for drivers of heavy haulers.  Specifically, they excluded the rule which forbade overtaking and included the rule which sets minimal speed limit. Overtaking and overruns are the two most frequent reasons of wrecks in the quarry.

The independent trade union People’s Solidarity has written collective letters to the public prosecutor’s office and to the Ombudsman. Management also appealed to the local authorities, and activists received summons to the local public prosecutor’s office. It seems like authorities act as employer agents to intimidate workers. One of the workers’ leaders was fired. Some workers were suspended from work. Repressions against workers are growing.

Now the employer has hired 70 scab drivers from another city and put them up in a hotel in Komsomolsk under the guard of private detectives. Every day, armed with Kalashnikov machine-guns, private guards convoy scabs to the quarry and back to the hotel giving no possibility even to speak to them. (It should be noted that machine-gun firearms are officially prohibited for private guards in Ukraine.)  At the moment strikebreakers have not succeeded in increasing production because they do not find it so easy to drive the heavy mining trucks. It’s clear that it would be impossible to increase output without grave danger for the life of workers. But it looks like the employer does not care about possible fatalities.

In spite of this, the strikers are resolute; they are doing their utmost to maintain their action in the face of the intimidation and strike breaking by Ferrexpo Plc. Management, having no desire to agree to the workers demands, pays for publications in the international media on a daily basis, assuring readers of colossal revenue growth. Such boasting is particularly cynical, since everyone knows that this revenue is obtained by the super-exploiting of the workers at the enterprise.

The industrial action will last until full satisfaction of the workers’ demands, which are as follows:

  • An increase of wages by at least 50%;
  • Lowering daily and monthly output quotas to fit the safety requirements and actual human abilities;
  • Restitution of the ‘first list of hazard’ and relevant social and pension benefits to all workers of the mine.

This action is clearly provoked by the employer’s impudent unwillingness to meaningfully negotiate with the workers. Ferrexpo Poltava Mining C.E.O. Viktor Lotous said to workers that they are “clowns” and advised one driver to “change his wife” if he can’t provide for the family.

Nearly one thousand of workers are involved in the action and are losing now approximately 40% of salary due to the underfulfilment of output norms.

The Poltava miners need international solidarity to force Ferrexpo to stop repression, negotiate seriously and secure the workers’ just demands.

Send messages of solidarity to:

‘Narodna solidarnist’ trade union
E-mail: ccc@narsolidarnist.org.ua

Telephone:  +380 44 2291167,
Fax: +380 44 5298901;
http://www.narsolidarnist.org.ua

Organise protests at Ferrexpo Plc:

Ferrexpo plc

Bahnhofstrasse 13
CH-6340 Baar
Switzerland
Telephone: +41 41 769 3660

2 – 4 King Street
London
SW1Y 6QL
Telephone: +44 207 389 8300

Ferrexpo Poltava Mining JSC (Poltavskij GZK VAT)

16 Stroiteley Street
Komsomolsk 39802
Poltava Region
Ukraine

E-mail: pgok@ferroexpo.poltava.ua
Telephone: +38 (05348) 21670

Please send information about protest actions and copies of protest letters to the ‘Narodna solidarnist’ trade union on e-mail  ccc@narsolidarnist.org.ua.

Video courtesy of Krasnoe TV


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Don’t Stop the Logging, Don’t Put Out the Fires – Stifle the Press

The Moscow Times
Khimki Battle Stirs Press Freedom Fears
10 August 2010
By Alexander Bratersky

An ongoing tussle over the Khimki forest is raising fears that media freedoms are in jeopardy, with the police pressuring journalists into collaborating or revealing their sources of information, media freedom activists said Monday.

In the most recent incident, investigators on Monday removed Alexander Litoi, a reporter for the liberal Novaya Gazeta daily, from a train in the Moscow region to question him about a July 28 attack on the Khimki City Hall building.

The City Hall building was pelted with stones and smoke grenades by 90 to 300 attackers who protested what they called unlawful destruction of the Khimki forest, slated for a partial demolition to make way for an $8 billion highway despite protests from environmentalists.

Litoi said the police wanted him to disclose information about members of an anti-fascist movement that took responsibility for the City Hall attack, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. He said he was not present during the attack.

Last week, police officers visited the offices of several newspapers, including Kommersant, asking staff for information about the attack.

The requests amount to an attempt to disclose journalists’ sources, which can only be revealed on court orders — something that investigators did not obtain, said Andrei Rikhter, a media professor at Moscow State University’s school of journalism.

Police investigators have also visited the headquarters of the Svobodnya Pressa online daily, asking for photos of the City Hall attackers.

Several reporters from Komsomolskaya Pravda and Moskovsky Komsomolets have been summoned for questioning, and police officers have also visited the home of the Gazeta.ru reporter Grigory Tumanov.

“These are attempts to discredit reporters,” Rikhter said, adding that the law does not offer the media sufficient protection from police abuse.

“The media law doesn’t ban [police] from conducting searches in offices of media outlets and summoning reporters for questioning,” he said.

Moscow and Moscow region police spokespeople provided no comment on the media freedom allegations Monday. A Khimki police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Moscow Times that police were only acting on request of civil authorities in the case. He did not elaborate.

The relatively independent print media has become a source of irritation for the authorities after television, the No. 1 source of news for most of the population, was placed under firm state control in the early 2000s, said Boris Timoshenko, a researcher at the Glasnost Defense Foundation.

He said the Khimki attack has served as a source of embarrassment for the police because the police had failed to react fast enough to make any arrests.

“They are looking for scapegoats,” he said.

Two suspects have been charged in connection with the attack and face up to seven years in prison. The two deny involvement and claim that they were targeted for being prominent figures in the anti-fascist movement.

Some media experts said the police have grown more bold in going after journalists after State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who chairs the ruling United Russia party, attacked two newspapers for critical articles following the March 29 suicide bombings in the Moscow metro that killed 40 people.

Gryzlov claimed that articles in Vedomosti and Moskovsky Komsomolets about Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, who claimed responsibility for the bombings, showed that the newspapers “might have been connected with terrorist activity.”

Both newspapers filed defamation suits against Gryzlov, but lost.


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Looking for the “Animal” Cop

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1598 (59), Friday, August 6, 2010
Police Claim They Will Investigate ‘Animal’ Policeman
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The St. Petersburg Interior Ministry is looking into the actions of officers who beat and arrested people while dispersing a peaceful rally in defense of the right of assembly on Saturday, July 31, a police spokesman said this week.

The statement came in the wake of a large number of reports about the actions of one officer in particular who beat people with his police baton and dragged a young woman by her hair. The officer, whose rank praporshchik is roughly equivalent to the U.S. police rank of sergeant, remains unidentified. Meanwhile, many of those who suffered violence at the hands of the police have filed complaints to police chiefs and the prosecutor, asking them to open a criminal case.

In a video widely distributed on the Internet, the officer is seen approaching people at the Strategy 31 rally held near Gostiny Dvor metro on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, with the words “F***ing animals, who else wants some?” A young man wearing a red T-shirt is heard asking, “Why are you swearing?” — in answer to which the officer hits him across the face with his baton and drags him roughly to a police bus, accompanied by other policemen.

The young man who was hit in the face was Dmitry Semyonov, who said he did not belong to any political group.

“I was just walking around the city,” he said Thursday. “I knew that there would be a rally at that time and decided to head in the direction of Gostiny Dvor, saw it, stopped and started to watch.”

Semyonov said he did not realize he had been hit with a baton until he saw the video. He said he discovered a painful bump while he was at the police station and realized some of his hair had been pulled out.

“To be honest, it was very fast, I remember he grabbed me by the hair, then hit me, a woman started to pull me aside, and while [the police] were dragging me, I remember shouting, ‘What for? What for?’” Semyonov was charged with violating the rules for holding public events.

Svetlana Pavlushina is the young woman who can be seen in videos and photos being dragged by her long hair by the same police officer. Pavlushina is an activist with White Ribbon, the movement for police reform headed by former policeman Alexei Dymovsky.

“I was standing and filming the detentions,” she said Thursday. “He got out of the bus, saw me, and with the words ‘You want to be there, too?’ started to drag me by my hair.” She said she was left with several bruises on her wrist from being seized.

“I started to scream to attract attention. My sister and then Eduard Balagurov from our movement came to my rescue.”

Balagurov, who was detained and taken to hospital after being beaten, said that White Ribbon activists had not taken part in the rally, but had come to observe and document the police’s actions.

He said he rushed to help Pavlushina when he heard her screaming.

“She was surrounded by a crowd of policemen who were pulling her hair, shoving her from side to side and grabbing her clothes,” Balagurov said.

“I held onto that same officer because he was being the most aggressive toward Sveta and holding her hair most firmly, and I tried to pull his arm away from Sveta.”

Balagurov was detained and badly beaten when he refused to enter the police bus. “They started to kick me and hit me with their fists, and that same sergeant tried to gouge out my eyes,” he said. “What struck me was that they were swearing and frenzied. The policemen usually say in their defense that they were only acting on orders. I feel the order was to do it in a sadistic way.”

Balagurov said he felt ill and dizzy at the police station and was taken away by ambulance with a suspected concussion. Like Semyonov, he was charged with violating the rules for holding public events.

Alexander Kormushkin, who was wearing a black T-shirt in support of the imprisoned oil tycoon and Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said the same sergeant hit him with his baton twice, causing his head to bleed. He said he frequently takes part in protests, but does not belong to any political group.

Kormushkin said he was dragged by several policemen, including the same sergeant, after he tried to prevent a policeman from arresting activists.

“He punched me twice from below — trying to conceal it, so no one could see — first in the jaw, then he smashed my lip. As I resisted, he tried to gouge out my eye with the other hand.”

Kormushkin said he was beaten by the same sergeant after he escaped from the police bus where detainees were being held, having climbed through a ventilation window onto the roof of the bus.

“I jumped [from the roof] and was caught for a second time,” he said. “They were putting me in the bus, then — bang! — I felt a blow on my head from behind. I turned around, and the same sergeant hit me with his baton for the second time, drawing blood. There was a lot of blood — my face and trousers were covered in blood.”

The police refused to call an ambulance to the bus, and Kormushkin was taken to hospital from the police station, one hour after being detained.

“An investigation of the facts published in the media criticizing the police’s actions on July 31 is underway,” police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko said Thursday.

He said that by law such investigations should be conducted within a month of the event in question, but did not exclude that it would be completed earlier.

Photos by Sergey Chernov

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Hunting Season Is Open: On the Persecution of Khimki Forest Defenders and Moscow Antifascists

Below, we have posted a translation of some excerpts from a excellent article on the Russian news and commentary website Chastnyi Korrespondent (“Private Correspondent”), which describes in detail the now-notorious August 4 Moscow press conference after whose conclusion, Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, was kidnapped by Moscow Region police, allegedly because she had failed to respond to a summons to report for question in connection with the July 28 attack on the Khimki town hall. (Chirikova has denied that she received any summons.) The remarks made at the press conference by Chirikova, Institute for Collective Action director Carine Clément, lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin (who is coordinating the defense of Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, the two young Moscow antifascists who on August 6 were formally charged with disorderly conduct and conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct in a group, which could send them to prison for seven years), and Gaskarov’s mother, Elena, shed a great deal of light on this tangled case and underscore the need for activists both in Russia and abroad to show their solidarity with both the forest defenders and the unjustly accused antifascists.

This is the point made by Tord Björk in his terrific appeal for solidarity. He explains why this seemingly exotic instance of “Asian despotism” is worth everyone’s attention: because it exemplifies politically and environmentally destructive processes under way throughout the world, and because the choice made by very different Russian activists to defend one another in the face of this onslaught is inspiring and deserves our support.

The Russian opposition has chosen to show its strength by sticking together. The protest leader Chirikova who by all means can be described as a mainstream environmentalist with modest and well informed arguments was among the speakers at the press conference to defend the arrested anti fascists Solopov and Gaskarov. It is hard to believe that the spectacular arrest by special riot and anti-terrorist police force of her directly after this press conference is anything else than an attempt to put a violence stamp on the whole environmental protest and create fear. But those in power failed to split the Russian movement. The 19 of January committee which is the result of the unification of forces during the comemoration of the murder of Markelov and Baburova calls for solidarity. It is now up to international movements to show that the provocation against the European environmental opinion in completely disregarding the local opinion against building of the toll highway through the Khimki forest and still believing in financial support from Europe is met by a strong no. It is even more up to the whole global environmental justice and all popular movements to show that the attempts at using right wing extremism combined with repression against a movement is not accept[able] in Moscow or anywhere else.

The growing repression we have seen at the Climate summit in Copenhagen, against the landless movement MST in Brazil, against migrants and protesters of all kinds not only in impoverished countries but also the rich and industrialized must be confronted by common efforts. The authorities start to leave all earlier notions of freedom of expression and individual evidence for committing a crime behind.  The heavy possible and necessary involvement of EU funding in the project through EBRD and the European Investment Bank makes it also possible to mobilize substantial protests against the project. We have to join hands across borders and movements to build solidarity.

We should point out that on August 5, Yevgenia Chirikova was again kidnapped by police — after a second interrogation in connection with the Khimki town hall incident — and taken to the Khimki justice of the peace, who sentenced her to fines of 1,500 rubles and 800 rubles for (respectively) “organizing an illegal demonstration” and “disobeying the police.” She allegedly committed these crimes while on watch in the Khimki Forest on the evening of July 28.

http://www.chaskor.ru/article/ohota_nachalas_18976
Zinaida Troitskaya
Hunting Season Is Open

[…]

Carine Clément insisted that the [action against the Khimki administration] building was spontaneous. She was the first speaker at the press conference to inform [reporters] that Solopov and Gaskarov, detained on suspicion of organizing and carrying out the action, would not be released from police custody for another two months, [that is,] for the entire period of the investigation. “As if they are dangerous terrorists,” added Clément.

Clément talked about one of the people arrested on July 29, Alexei Gaskarov. “He has worked for the Institute for Collective Action [IKD] for three years. He is an educated [young] man. He graduated from the government’s Finance Academy — he’s an economist. He wrote articles on economics for IKD. […] Yes, he holds antifascist views. But is there something wrong with that? These are humanist views — the rejection of extremism, the certainty that all people are equal, whatever their ethnicity. I believe that this [stance] is absolutely normal in any country, as well as in Russia, I hope. Alexei was always one of the most moderate members of this movement. He advocated nonviolent action, the ideological, educational front of this struggle. Yes, he often appeared in the media, including on behalf of IKD, as someone know the antifascist movement well. He was in Khimki on assignment: our editors sent him there to cover the action.”

The next speaker was Mikhail Ivanovich Trepashkin, Gaskarov and Solopov’s lawyer. He began by showing the arrest protocols and explaining some important details. […] Solopov’s arrest protocol is dated June 29, and it states that Solopov was “caught at the crime scene.” According to his protocol, Gaskarov was arrested “immediately after the commission of the crime.” The meanings of the phrases “immediately after” and “at the crime scene” have thus been stretched to encompass a whole 24-hour period.

Trepashkin explained what motives could lead to a suspect’s arrest.

They are listed in Article 91 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, but none of them apply in the present case. Solopov and Gaskarov were not caught either at the crime scene or immediately after the crime was committed. Otherwise, what are we to make of media reports that no one was detained [on July 28]? No one has testified that they either participated in the action or organized it. According to the lawyer, the police’s attempts to turn up evidence of the crime via searches [of the suspects’ flats] were also unsuccessful.

“In any civilized country, the case would be closed after such details were made public, and the suspect would be released from custody,” Trepashkin said. “In order to correct this flagrant inaccuracy, the judge a bit later alter[ed] the circumstances of the arrest to state that citizens Gaskarov and Solopov were arrested ‘on the basis of the existence of persons, who have indicated that they committed the crime’  — that is what the letter of the law sounds like. In my view, the judge fabricated the evidence. She referred to the existence of witnesses, but there is no record of them in the arrest protocols!”

[…]

Trepashkin told reporters that in the motion it filed with the court, the prosecution indicated that Gaskarov and Solopov had organized the action and that they had acted “in concert [and] by previous agreement.” According to the lawyer, however, there is no evidence of this. During the search they conducted in Gaskarov’s flat, investigators turned up “The Activist’s Handbook.” It was this find that enabled the investigation team to affirm that Gaskarov had organized the action. No other evidence was found. The handbook contains legal recommendations for carrying out civic actions, the documents necessary for them, information about the legal deadlines for submitting demonstration permit requests, and other useful information for active citizens.

Investigators have managed only to come up “certain” (this is exactly how Mikhail Trepashkin put it) witnesses, Khimki residents. […] “In my opinion and that of my clients, the case rests on the testimony of perjurers, and it was on this basis that their term in police custody was extended,” he said. “I believe that the hearing was held in closed chamber only to conceal these contradictions. […] I see no other basis [for this decision]. There are four grounds for closing a preliminary investigatory hearing to the public, as stipulated in Article 241 of the Russian Federation Criminal Procedural Code. [The first is when a case involves] state secrets — obviously there are no such secrets in this case. [Second,] if a threat has been made to persons involved in the investigation or the court, but in this case not even the surnames [of the witnesses] are mentioned, only documents. [Third,] when a case involves minors, and fourth, in cases of sexual crimes. When a prosecuting investigator insists that information about the case not be made public, he is guided by these stipulations and is pursuing two goals. First, to make sure that nothing interferes with the apprehension of the perpetrators, and second, to make sure that the rights of people involved in the preliminary investigation are not violated. But in this case investigators insisted [on nondisclosure] so that the defense would have no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and compare their testimonies […].”

Investigators are clearly in a bind. On the one hand, the law has clearly been violated. Citizens should not toss various objects at city buildings, especially administrative buildings. Citizens should abide by the community’s rules and not disturb the peace. It is the police’s job to keep the peace and maintain order. But no [Khimki] city or police official has been able to explain how it happened that on the evening of July 28 the city and its administration building were left utterly defenseless. Or rather, none of them wants to explain this. But it would be stupid to miss an opportunity to explain this fact. Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, who also spoke at the press conference, helped reporters fill in the background.

On July 28, Alexander Semchenko, director of Teplotekhnik, Ltd., (the general contractor [in the highway construction pr0ject] and the official representative of the developer), called a meeting with Khimki Forest defenders and town residents at 5 p.m. in the Rodina Palace of Culture. Inspired with new hopes, [residents and activists] arrived at the meeting place at the appointed hour only to be informed that the meeting had been indefinitely postponed and a new venue [for the meeting] had not been decided on. According to Chirikova, around 300 people showed up for the meeting. The day before, a new logging machine had been delivered to the long-suffering forest park zone near the Vashutino Highway. Environmental activists would have interfered with the work [of this machine and the loggers]. In order to protect woodcutters from persistent demands to produce permits for the clear-cutting — according to Eco-Oborona [Chirikova’s group] and Greenpeace, these permits do not exist — nearly all local police were rounded up and sent to the forest. “They were guarding the illegal clear-cut from us in three cordons. We screamed at them to let us in, to let us stop the lawlessness that was being perpetrated. But the police did not respond and turned around to show us the best part of their bodies,” said Chirikova.

“We found out about what had happened at the [Khimki] administration building when journalists began calling us and asking us for commentary,” [said Chirikova]. “We didn’t know these people, but we were stunned by what they did: it provoked shock and awe. We are not at all a political movement: we are fighting for our habitat. Unlike the bureaucrats, we act strictly within the law. We act through pickets, demonstrations, and petitions. You have to understand that the defenders of the Khimki Forest are moms with kids, middle-aged women and men, grandmas — ordinary people who pay their taxes, go to demonstrations, and beg bureaucrats for years on end to please […] obey the law. We believe that this is how we should fight because we have no other resources.”

According to Yevgenia Chirikova, no one can go into the Khimki Forest nowadays. One of her comrades in the struggle arrived in the forest wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Russia Is against the Logging of the Khimki Forest”: he was arrested and held in police custody until two in the morning, and calls to all the [town’s] police precincts [to learn his whereabouts] were of no use whatsoever. On that same July 28,  Yevgenia Chirikova’s husband had two ribs broken [by thugs?] when he attempted to photograph the logging. And this was not the only assault that Chirikova recounted [at the press conference. The police do not accept complaints [from victims of such attacks], and it is also the case that people are slightly afraid of going to the police station.

At the conclusion of her remarks, Chirikova informed [journalists] that the environmentalists do not intend to surrender, once  more emphasizing that they plan to use only legal methods: “Unlike the authorities and the police, we respect federal law and intend to act only within its bounds. Three years ago we warned the authorities about what is happening now — that s0ciety would protest; it’s absolutely logical. There are people who are more radically minded: they believe that our actions are ineffective — we beg to differ. It is obvious, however, that competent politicians don’t do such outrageous things. To cut down an oak forest, an old-growth forest, when there is an alternative, is abnormal. From both the legal and the ethical viewpoints.”

Alexei Gaskarov’s mother, Elena, talked about the court hearing. “The boys were allowed to say their piece at the court hearing, but no one listened to them. There is nothing they can charge [Alexei] with other than being civically active. During the search [of their flat] one got the sense that these people didn’t know what they were looking for. At first, they looked for [paint] spray cans, then masks, but in the end they confiscated books. The second time [they searched the flat?] I understood for sure that they had nothing against [Alexei]. But yesterday it became clear, when they didn’t listen to the lawyer and ignored all his remarks, that [the prosecution was not planning to charge Alexei with disorderly conduct]. Since they cannot prove [that charge], then they can try and prove [that he organized the attack]. The investigator hinted that the case was being handled at the very highest level, and said that charges would be filed in any case.”

Alexei Gaskarov, the media face of his movement, appeared many times on TV and radio after actions by his comrades. Trips to the police station for conversations were also a routine affair for him. This time, after being invited in by investigators, he reported to the Zhukovskoye police precinct as usual. And disappeared. His flat was searched at three in the morning, but his mother still did not his whereabouts. When she went to the police precinct the first time and [explained the circumstances], the police told her they didn’t know anything. When she showed up a second time, she announced that she would be forced to file a missing persons report. It was only then that she learned that her son had been arrested.

When Private Correspondent asked her how she thought the case would develop and what lay in store for her son, she replied, “The investigators advised me not to make noise about this case and gave me to understand that everything would be okay. One gets the impression that after the [incident] with the Khimki administration building, heads started to roll and that now what matters is to find some criminals and punish them publicly. If [Alexei] had not gone in for that talk [with the police] and someone else had gone, then that other person would have the same problems now.”

[…]

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Yevgenia Chirikova on Her Kidnapping by Police

http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/2118309.html

“I was a witness in the case of the assault on Khimkinskaya Pravda editor-in-chief Mikhail Beketov. Then I went to the police station myself to give testimony. I was also a witness in the murder case of lawyer Stanislav Markelov. Then the investigators called me on my cell phone. I did not receive any summons to the effect that I was a witness in the case of the attack on the Khimki administration building. If the investigators wanted to see me so badly, what prevented them from calling my cell phone? And what prevented them from handing me a summons as I exited the press center, rather than using the OMON to grab me,” asks Yevgenia Chirikov, adding that her arrest resembled a “demonstrative action” directed against environmentalists.

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The Kidnapping of Yevgenia Chirikova (4 August 2010, Moscow)

Here is video of Yevgenia Chirikova’s kidnapping by police and OMON riot cops after a press conference today in Moscow.

A spokesman for the Moscow Region Directorate of Internal Affairs (i.e., the police for the region around Moscow, not the city itself) later claimed that Chirikova was detained because she had failed to respond to a summons in connection with the investigation of the attack (allegedly by anarchists and antifascists) on the Khimki administration building on July 28.

We do not have special information about Chirikova or the attack, although everything we do know suggests that a) it is highly unlikely she would fail to appear if she really had been summoned, b) it is even less likely she had anything to do with the attack on the administration building. What you see on the video is an oligarchical capitalist police state in action.

UPDATE: Chirikova has been released after being interrogated by the police for five hours.

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Another Beautiful Day in the Russian Capital: Khimki Forest Defender Yevgenia Chirikova Kidnapped by Police after Press Conference

http://www.ikd.ru/node/14216

A press conference entitled “Pogrom in Khimki: The Police Fabricates the Ringleaders,” which took place today at the Independent Press Center in Moscow, ended in scandal. After the press conference ended, Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend to the Khimki Forest, was detained. The press conference was called to discuss the case of the so-called pogrom of the Khimki administration building and the Khimki police’s abuse of forest defenders. All the speakers scheduled for the event were in attendance: Carine Clément, director of the Institute for Collective Action (IKD); lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin; Irina Gaskarova, mother of one of the detainees; and Yevgenia Chirikov, who was detained after the press conference.

The speakers spoke in detail about the circumstances surround the numerous arrests of Khimki Forest defenders, in particular, the case of the two young men [Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov], who police stubbornly insist were the instigators of the so-called pogrom of the Khimki administration. A large number of journalists was present: the auditorium of the Independent Press Center was practically full.

As IKD deputy Andrei Demidov reports, there were a huge number of police officers and plain-clothes detectives present outside the press center and in the courtyard. A journalist at the press conference asked Yevgenia Chirikova to explain why there were so many police present. “Apparently so that we don’t relax,” replied Chirikova, adding, “Let’s see if we can still get out of here.”

As she exited the press center, several policemen seized Chirikova and rudely packed her into a car. Meanwhile, police blockaded other press conference attendees in the courtyard. Two police majors who were coordinating the actions of the “law enforcers” refused to identify themselves. [This in itself is a violation of Russian law.] Yevgenia Chirikova was placed in a Lada automobile with Moscow Region license plate number M 356. According to unconfirmed reports, she is being taken to the Khamovniki Police Precinct.

The Institute for Collective Action will continue to follow this story.

_____

Editor’s Note. According to one of our correspondents, Chirikova has been taken to the Chief Directorate of Internal Affairs for the Moscow Region (Nikitsky pereulok, 3), where she is being interrogated about the attack on the Khimki administration. The phone numbers there (for anyone who would like to call and inquire about her well-being) are +7 (495) 222-48-01 and +7 (495) 222-40-03. Of course you’ll be unlikely to get someone on the other end of the line who speaks English, but pronouncing the magic words “Yevgenia Chirikova” will let the Russian police know that the world is watching as they trample all recognized norms of civil and human rights into the dust.

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Greenpeace Russia: Help Defend the Khimki Forest!

Editor’s Note. Online petitions are surely weapons of the weak, but the defenders of the Khimki Forest, which is currently being illegally razed to make way for an 8-billion-dollar toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg, need all the help they can get right now. (We have posted on the story here, here, and here.) Below, you’ll find a petition drafted by Greenpeace Russia and addressed to Xavier Huillard, chairman and chief executive officer of VINCI, the French company contracted to build the highway. If you go to the link provided, you’ll find the preface to the petition (in Russian) and their suggested appeal to Mr. Huillard (in French). To sign onto the appeal as is, you merely need to type in your name (Имя) and e-mail address, and hit the send (Отправить) button. Or you can write your own letter by changing the text in the subject heading (Тема) and the message (Сообщение) field. Below, we have provided translations of the original Russian and French texts.

For more suggestions on how to help, see the EarthAction website.

It would probably also not hurt to contact VINCI directly.

________

http://www.greenpeace.org/russia/ru/lesnadzor

HELP DEFEND THE KHIMKI FOREST: Sign a petition addressed to the construction company VINCI!

This major French company has been contracted to build a road through the Khimki Forest.

In April of this year, at a meeting between the presidents of Russia and France, French businessmen implored Dmitry Medvedev to take care of the situation with the Khimki Forest. As the president said then, “It’s a pity about the oaks, of course,” but then he ordered his aides to take care of this “oaky” [i.e., in Russian, “stupid” or “stubborn”] problem.

And boy have they have taken care of it! The forest is now being illegally cut down. The forest’s defenders are attacked by hired thugs and illegally detained by regular police and OMON riot cops; they are threatened with physical reprisals. But back home in France, Yves-Thibault de Silguy, Vice-Chairman and Senior Director of VINCI, is a knight of the French Legion of Honor. Does such an esteemed gentleman really want to be an accomplice to the destruction of nature and the nonobservance of civil rights in another country?

The Khimki Forest is one of the last large tracts of forest around Moscow, which is suffocating from automobile exhaust, fires, and soot as it is. Out of three possible routes for the Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll road, planners have chosen the route that will destroy the forest by splitting it in two. First the road will be built, but later it is quite possible that the remainder of the forest will be cleared to make way for villas, shopping malls, etc. Moreover, the alternate routes for the highway would not have such a serious impact on the Khimki Forest. According to developers, they are simply quite expensive, although according to their own documents, the alternate route that would cause the least damage to the forest is also the most economical. It is just that at this other site there are plans to build a golf club and a Formula-1 racetrack, and in Russia it is much cheaper to destroy a forest than to fight with those forces who allot land for golf clubs.

SEND AN APPEAL TO VINCI’S CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD [XAVIER HUILLARD]

We demand that VINCI retract its request to “take care” of the forest’s defenders, not participate in the construction of a road whose route runs through the Khimki Forest, and re-examine alternate routes for the highway.

[Suggested text of the appeal to M. Huillard]

A l’attention de Monsieur Xavier Huillard – Vinci tue la forêt de Russie

Monsieur Xavier Huillard,

Suite à la situation actuelle concernant le projet de la construction de l’autoroute à péage Moscou-Saint-Petersbourg nous sommes obligés de vous adresser ce courrier, la participation de votre société étant importante, dans le projet accrédité par le  Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Industrie et de l’Emploi du Gouvernement de la Fédération de Russie.

Malgré la disponibilité de nombreuses alternatives, la route doit traverser une partie de la forêt à proximité de la ville Khimki dans la banlieue moscovite. L’alternative choisie n’a pas de fondements logiques, car elle suppose la coupe de plus de 140 hectares de forêt de la banlieue moscovite – source d’oxygène pour la mégapole de Moscou.

Les organisations de défense de l’environnement, notamment, Greenpeace de Russie, sont opposées au passage de la route à travers la forêt et proposent de retourner aux autres alternatives proposées. Les écologistes font face à la résistance à la fois des pouvoirs publics russes, ainsi que des personnes inconnues, présentent sur le lieu de la coupe forestière.

Actuellement des citoyens-militants – des habitants de la ville de Khimki, tentant à s’opposer à la coupe de la forêt de Khimki, entendent des menaces physiques du côté des personnes inconnues, présentent sur le lieu de la coupe forestière et soutenues par la milice et par OMON (brigade anti-terrorisme et anti-émeute). Le 19 juillet des personnes inconnues ont dispersé  le campement de tentes des défenseurs de la forêt de Khimki. Jusqu’à présent des hommes patrouillent sur le territoire de la coupe forestière, en menaçant physiquement chaque personne à proximité.

Il faut rappeler qu’un des militants du mouvement « Défense de la forêt de Khimki » – le rédacteur en chef du journal local « Khmkinskaya pravda » Mikhaïl Beketov a déjà souffert été blessé. En 2008 il a été soumis à une agression brutale. Au cours des deux dernières années il a subi plusieurs opérations importantes et il est toujours alité. La voiture du journaliste a explosé avant les événements tragiques de 2008 et l’affaire a été classée.

Ces derniers jours la situation autours de la forêt de Khimki s’est aggravée davantage encore. Les hommes, montant la garde autour de la coupe forestière illégale, ont provoqué une bagarre et ont tabassé les militants écologistes en présence d’un député de la Douma, arrivé sur le lieu des événements. Seule l’intervention personnelle du député, qui a littéralement forcé la milice à prendre des mesures, a pu empêcher les graves conséquences des actes commis par ces personnes inconnues.

Il faut aussi noter, que le Centre TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL a publié sur son site une conclusion de l’expertise anticorruption : il s’agit de l’Arrêté du Gouvernement de la Fédération de Russie, adopté dans le cadre de la réalisation du projet de construction de l’autoroute fédérale Moscou-Saint-Petersbourg. Il est précisé dans ce document (voir Avenant 1), que le projet  comprend explicitement une composante corruption, étant donné que le ministre russe du Transport de la Fédération de Russie et des autres fonctionnaires administratifs y sont intéressés personnellement.

L’histoire de la coupe illégale de la forêt de Khimki est déjà livrée à une large publicité dans la presse mondiale, notamment dans Reuters, BBC, etc.  A cet égard nous sommes sûrs que la participation française à ce projet, injustifié du point de vue écologique avec l’alternative  du passage de l’autoroute à travers la forêt de Khimki, cause un dommage irréparable aux relations franco-russes et à l’image de la société participant au projet.

Nous espérons, que votre société a envie de n’avoir rien en commun avec ce projet, réalisé dans l’atteinte aux droits des citoyens de Russie et à l’environnement et dont le site de réalisation est surveillé par des hommes armés et masqués.

Nous exigeons une déclaration officielle immédiate de la part de la société VINCI, précisant qu’elle :

1) n’a rien en commun avec le projet, causant un dommage irréparable à la nature

2) exige d’examiner des alternatives au tracé de l’autoroute Moscou-Saint-Petersbourg qui ne seront pas liées à la destruction de la forêt de Khimki.

3) exige d’arrêter tous les poursuites et les agressions contre les défenseurs de la forêt de Khimki.

_____

Attn: Mr. Xavier Huillard

Re: VINCI Is Killing the Russian Forest

Given the current situation regarding the proposed construction of a toll road from Moscow to St. Petersburg, we are obliged send you this letter because the involvement of your company in this project (which has been approved by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Ministry of Labor and Social Development of the Government of the Russian Federation) is crucial.

Despite the availability of numerous alternatives, the road will cross through a tract of forest near the town of Khimki in the Moscow suburbs. The route chosen has no basis in logic, because it involves the felling of more than 140 hectares of forest in the Moscow suburbs — a source of oxygen for the megalopolis of Moscow.

Environmental organizations, in particular, Greenpeace Russia, are opposed to the passage of the road through the forest and call on planners to re-examine the proposed alternatives. Environmentalists face pressure from both the Russian authorities and persons unknown who are present at the logging site.

Right now the grassroots activists and Khimki residents who are trying to oppose the clear-cutting of the Khimki Forest are threatened with physical violence by persons unknown at the logging site who are supported by the police and OMON riot/anti-terrorist police. On July 19, persons unknown broke up the tent camp of Khimki Forest defenders. Men are still patrolling the logging site, physically threatening everyone in the vicinity.

It should be remembered that one of the activists of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest — Mikhail Beketov, editor of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda — has already suffered injuries. In 2008 he was subjected to a brutal assault. Over the past two years he has undergone several major operations and is still bedridden. The journalist’s car was bombed before the tragic events of 2008 and the case was closed.

These days the situation surrounding the forest Khimki has worsened further. The men who guard the illegal logging site provoked a fight and beat up environmental activists in the presence of a State Duma deputy who had arrived at the scene. Only the personal intervention of the deputy, who literally forced the police to take action, prevented these acts committed by persons unknown from having serious consequences.

Also note that Transparency International-R has published on its website its findings in an anti-corruption study dealing with the Russian Federation government decree adopted as part of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg federal highway construction project. It is stated in that document (see Addendum 1) that the project includes an explicit component of corruption, given that the Russian Federation Minister of Transportation and other government officials have a personal stake in the project.

The story of the illegal felling of the Khimki Forest has already garnered broad coverage from the international press, including Reuters, the BBC, etc. In this regard, we are confident that French involvement in this project, which is unjustifiable from the environmental point of view because it routes the highway through the Khimki Forest, will cause irreparable damage to Franco-Russian relations and the image of the company involved in the project.

We hope that your company wants to have nothing to do with this project, whose implementation involves the infringement of the rights of Russian citizens and the environment, and whose site is guarded by armed and masked men.

We demand an immediate official statement from VINCI stating that:

1) it wants nothing to do with a project that causes irreparable damage to nature;

2) it demands the consideration of alternatives to the proposed highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg that do not involve the destruction of the Khimki Forest;

3) it demands an end to all persecution of and attacks against Khimki Forest defenders.

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“F…ing Animals, Who Else Wants Some?” (Petersburg, 31 July 2010)

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1597 (58), Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Police Brutally Disperse Protest
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

Activists and journalists are demanding an investigation into beatings and arbitrary arrests made Saturday at a peaceful rally in defense of the constitutional right of assembly. People were punched and hit with police batons, dragged by their hair, pushed face-first against a police bus and half-strangled inside the bus.

Three detained men were taken to hospital from the police precincts where they were being held, while an old woman who fell to the ground after being pushed by a police officer was taken to hospital from the site of the rally — outside Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt.

Sixty nine were detained during several waves of brutal arrests in the rally, which was part of Strategy 31, the civil campaign demanding the right to assemble peacefully that has been held across Russia since July 2009 on the 31st day of the months with 31 days. The campaign is not affiliated to any single political party.

The day was chosen by oppositional politician and author Eduard Limonov because the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, is guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.

Since its inception, the campaign’s rallies have not once been authorized by the authorities in St. Petersburg or Moscow, where protesters gather on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad.

In St. Petersburg, an estimated 500 came to Gostiny Dvor metro station on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. The protest was launched by Andrei Dmitriyev, the local leader of Limonov’s banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP), who spoke surrounded by supporters with their arms linked in order to make arrests more difficult.

“The whole country is with us today; Strategy 31 events are taking place across the country — from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad,” he shouted.

“The number 31 has become sacred for the political opposition. Article 31 is needed by all the political forces, whatever their ideology, it’s also needed by ordinary passersby.”

The protesters, many of whom wore T-shirts with the number 31 printed on them, deliberately refrained from using megaphones or banners, without which their protest could not officially be qualified as a rally.

But the police rushed to detain participants, who shouted “Russia Will Be Free” and “Freedom,” after an officer speaking into a megaphone claimed that the event was illegal and ordered people to disperse.

The police acted more brutally than during the three previous rallies held in St. Petersburg since Jan. 31. People shouted “Fascists” and “Killers” in response to the police’s actions.

Activists are trying to establish the name of one particular officer who hit a young man in the face with a rubber baton. The officer walked through the crowd shouting “F***ing animals, who else wants some?” Before this incident, he was seen dragging a young woman to a police bus by her hair.

One man, whose head was deliberately rammed into a police bus, was then seen sitting inside the bus near the window with his face covered in blood.

Although the police did not detain journalists during the previous events, three photographers were detained during Saturday’s protest, which lasted for about 40 minutes.

They were charged with “participating in a unsanctioned rally” and “disobeying police orders.” Alexander Astafyev of Moi Rayon weekly newspaper said he was detained when he took a picture of the policemen relaxing after making a wave of arrests.

“One pointed at me and said, ‘I wish you were dead,’ with a smile,” Astafyev said Monday. He was then seized by several policemen and carried to the bus, during which a policeman damaged his camera. Another photographer, Mikhail Obozov of Yevropeyets newspaper, was detained while taking a picture of an old woman lying on the ground after being pushed by a police officer.

A policeman struck Obozov’s camera lens and his photographs were deleted, Astafyev said.

The photographers, who are now waiting for their court summons, have written a complaint to the St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, he said.

Andrei Konstantinov, chair of the St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, said Monday that the detained photographers were being provided with legal support by the union.

“Our lawyers will examine what really happened and then we’ll hold a secretariat meeting and decide what our actions will be. It’s too early to issue any statements right now,” he said.

Strategy 31 events were held in 42 cities and towns across Russia on Saturday, according to the campaign’s organizers. In Moscow, 500 to 1,500 people came to Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, where the protest was also dispersed, with more than 80 people arrested, including former first deputy minister and current Solidarity democratic movement leader Boris Nemtsov.

The statement said that the police acted far more brutally in St. Petersburg than in Moscow.

In St. Petersburg, those detained were taken to four different police stations and released at about midnight, more than five hours after being detained, Dmitriyev said Sunday. Most were charged with “participating in an unsanctioned rally,” while several were also charged with “disobeying police orders,” a more serious offense punishable by up to 15 days in prison.

“The police are acting more and more roughly, with some officers breaking every limit, in particular the one who smashed the man’s head [into the bus] and dragged a young woman to the bus by her hair,” Dmitriyev said.

“We will find the people who were beaten and file complaints to the prosecutor. To stop this from happening again, we’ll invite the local ombudsman and rights activists to our next rally, scheduled for Aug. 31. Hopefully, it will dampen the rage of the uniformed men a little.”

A police spokesman declined to comment Monday.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his full photo reportage of the demonstration here.

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