Tag Archives: 2011 Russian parliamentary elections

Victoria Lomasko, 2012: A Chronicle of Resistance

vika & vlad

Victoria Lomasko
2012: A Chronicle of Resistance

2012 was marked by heavily attended protests by the Russian opposition. For the first time since the early 1990s, the protest movement in Russian attracted worldwide attention. Many people anticipated an “orange” revolution.

Beginning with the elections to the State Duma, on December 4, 2011, and until November 2012, I kept a graphic “chronicle of resistance” in which I made on-the-spot sketches of all important protest-related events. I will try now to recall and describe the protests, in which I was involved as a rank-and-file albeit regular participant.

United Russia election observer

December 4, 2011.
On election day, I worked as a artist/reporter in Khimki. At my polling station, journalists and all observers, except those from the United Russia party, were removed under various pretexts, but the female artist was allowed to stay as an amusing oddity. I witnessed one bus after another bringing people who voted with absentee ballots. The people were from various enterprises and quite often from other towns. The drivers shouted at them to vote faster because they had to get them to the next polling station. Ordinary residents who had come to vote on their own were unable to get through to the table where ballots were issued.

By evening and in the days to come, the Internet was chockablock with photo and video evidence of election fraud. Observers wrote about gross violations. Coupled with Putin’s decision to become president again, this evidence undermined any illusions about civil liberties in Russia and hopes for change.

Women on phone: “We’re yelling at an opposition rally.”
Man with megaphone: “Russia! Putin! Medvedev!”

December 6, 2011.
I missed the December 5 rally at Chistye Prudy. The same evening, protesters created an event on the social networks—a rally on December 6 on Triumfalnaya Square. Protests in defense of the freedom of assembly, launched by [Eduard] Limonov, have taken place on Triumfalnaya since 2009. Although the December 6 rally was not allowed by the authorities, thousands of people gathered for it. At the exit from the subway, people were greeted by Nashi members pounding drums and battalions of police in “diving suits.” Police were rough when detaining protesters. Security services officers in plainclothes and Nashi members videotaped the proceedings from the other side of the barriers. I stood next to them: I was taken for a Nashi member and praised for my talent. I added the speech bubbles later at home.

“We’re fucking tired of them”

December 10, 2011.
News of the arrests on Triumfalnaya added even more fire to the desire to protest. Around forty thousand people signed up for a “Rally for Honest Elections” on Facebook.  Revolution Square was the meeting place. On the Internet, in kitchens and offices, people discussed the possibility of revolution and the likelihood that the demonstration would be dispersed by force of arms. Liberal leaders (Nemtsov, Parkhomenko and Ryzhkov) made a deal with the authorities that the rally would be allowed if the protesters were moved to Bolotnaya Square and away from the Kremlin. On December 10, the first opposition rally since the early 1990s involving tens of thousands of people took place, and the police did not detain anyone. I think many people were so excited to be present in the throng of the one-hundred-thousand-strong demonstration and so impressed by the beauty of the march under flags of various colors that they ceased to critically evaluate what was happening.

Woman on phone: “All of Moscow is here.”

December 24, 2011.
The December 24 rally on Sakharov Avenue was memorable because of the clear presence of the “common people”—folks without iPhones, poorly dressed, and without party allegiances. The “people” took to the streets without creative placards and used foul language when commenting on Ksenia Sobchak and Alexei Kudrin, who addressed the rally from the stage.

Caption (upper left): We beat Hitler, we’ll beat Putin!

February 4, 2012.
On a frosty afternoon, the March for Fair Elections proceeded from Bolshaya Yakimanka to Bolotnaya Square in four columns—a non-aligned “civic” column, liberals, right-wingers and leftists.

February 26, 2012.
The grassroots “White Circle” flash mob resembled an unwitting reprisal of the 2007 action “White Line,” when artists from the so-called Trade Union of Street Art enclosed the Garden Ring in a white chalk line. During “White Circle,” protesters sporting white symbols joined hands along the entire length of the Garden Ring. White clothes, white balloons, white flowers, white toys, white dogs, white ribbons waved from passing cars, and the falling snow: the mood was bright. It was spoiled only by Nashi members holding placards that read, “Only 8 days left until Putin’s victory.” After “White Circle,” Sergei Udaltsov and his supporters led protest round-dances on Revolution Square.

Election observers observing the vote count

March 4, 2012.
Thousands of activist observers worked during the presidential election. I was part of a mobile group organized by the Citizen Observer project. Shuttling between polling stations, we saw rows of buses from Belgorod, Vladimir, Saratov and many other towns; at the polling stations themselves, we saw lines of provincial workers and students with absentee ballots. A festive concert on Manezh Square awaited them in the evening.

Despite the fact that all opposition forces were mobilized in the сapital, Putin mustered 48.25% of the vote in Moscow, and 63.6% nationwide.

We will begin carrying out peaceful acts of civil disobedience

March 5, 2012.
The next day, Pushkin Square was the site of another For Fair Elections rally. There were fewer creative placards and more anger—people shared their impressions of the election. We stood in the cold, knee-deep in snow under a full moon. Udaltsov urged protesters not to go home “until Putin leaves.” Police dispersed the several hundred people who heeded his call and stayed. Many of them were sentenced to fifteen days in jail.

Valentina, 73 years old
“Well done, Pussy Riot! I’d sing ‘Mother of God, Drive Putin Out!’ with them.”
Placard: What a talent for treating the people like idiots

March 10, 2012.
The last For Fair Elections rally took place on Novy Arbat. Maxim Katz and other victors in municipal district council elections urged the crowd not to despair and switch to solving social issues. Speakers mentioned the political prisoners from Pussy Riot, and the first placards supporting the group appeared amidst the crowd. The next protest was scheduled for May 6.

Nadya Tolokonnikova: “I wish those who put us here a life like ours in prison.”

In between the thousands-strong rallies, “Pussy Riot Court Festivals” were held outside courthouses where hearings in the Pussy Riot case took place. Artists were heavily involved in these protests, producing leaflets and placards, and organizing performances.

Woman on left: “I’m trying to dissuade my husband from emigrating—I want to raise the kids here.”
Placard: It’s important to believe in a happy future
Woman on right: “I want to live in Russia.”
Placard: Changes have already taken place in our hearts 

May 6, 2012.
Despite the start of the summer dacha season, around fifty thousand people gathered for the March of Millions. For the first time during the recent large rallies, the police dispersed people with billy clubs and tear gas. Right in front of me, police hit a young man over the head, and he fell to the ground bleeding. “They have murdered him! They have murdered him!” women wailed. Several protesters overturned portable toilets, and the shit from them flowed under policemen’s feet.  The police divided protesters into groups, drove them through the streets, beat and detained them, but they were unable to force people to leave the area between Bolotnaya Square and the Tretyakov Gallery until nightfall. At present, nineteen people who attended the rally, arbitrarily chosen by the police, have been charged with organizing a riot. Twelve of them are in jail. One of the so-called prisoners of May 6, Maxim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to four and a half years in a penal colony.

Woman: “Why are there riot police everywhere?”
Policeman: “Because of the folk festivals.”

May 7, 2012.
Putin once again became president of Russia on this day, but disgruntled citizens began holding round-the-clock “folk festivals” in downtown Moscow in protest.

Pushkin Square (Moscow), May 9
Veteran: “We defended the motherland!”
Riot Cop: “And we’re clearing the square.”

May 9, 2012.
On May 9, it seemed like Moscow was celebrating Police Occupation Day, not Victory Day.

By midday, the opposition—people from the “folk festivals,” mainly—had begun closing ranks at Chistye Prudy. In the evening, paddy wagons appeared on both sides of Chistoprudny Boulevard. The police for some reason did not disperse the fifteen hundred activists. Despite the threat of arrest, at least a hundred people spent the night at Chistye Prudy around the monument to Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev.

Lecture on civil disobedience

May 10, 2012. The Occupy Abai camp took shape at Chistye Prudy the next morning. It was organized by civic activists, liberals, leftists, anarchists, nationalists, members of the LGBT community and others. The core Occupy Abai activists almost never left the camp during its existence; they slept on the ground in sleeping bags. They took responsibility for cleaning the camp, running a people’s kitchen fueled by donations, and maintaining order. Other members of the protest movement also tried to spend as much time as possible in the camp; many of them blew off classes or took a vacation from work. Every day, activists gave free lectures on political and social issues. Some people came to the camp with guitars and organized improvised concerts: they sang about freedom. Poets held a reading of civic poety, Theater.Doc performed a play entitled “BerlusPutin,” and I had a show of drawings, Everyday Occupy Abai. People of different political persuasions discussed the prospects of the protest. Occupy Abai was crowded even in the cold and rain. Everyone regarded the camp’s existence as a miracle.

On May 13, tens of thousands of people joined the “Test Stroll” organized by writers, which went from Pushkin Square to Chistye Prudy. At the end of the stroll, many people remained at Occupy Abai.

Man: “I left my business six months ago to take part in the protests with my girlfriend.”

May 16, 2012.
At five o’clock in the morning on May 16, Occupy Abai was dispersed by the police. The pretext was a suit filed in the Basmanny District Court by several residents of house no. 9 on Chistoprudny Boulevard, who complained of “noise, filth and trampled lawns.” Occupy moved to Barrikadnaya, but it proved impossible to organize a kitchen and sleeping space at the new location and thus live in the camp round the clock. Most activists came only in the evening for the general assemblies, during which further plans were discussed; everyone could express their opinion, and decisions were made by voting. Unity among people could still be sensed at Occupy Barrikadnaya. I remember a young woman who would come with plastic bags stuffed with sandwiches to feed the hungry activists.  Her sandwich gave me the strength to continue drawing for another couple hours. Another time, it started to rain, and nationalists gave me a raincoat. It was the police who poisoned life in the Occupy camp: they detained people, stole food, and once they seized a donations box for the camp. On May 19, Occupy Barrikadnaya was also dispersed by the police. In the following days there were attempts to reestablish the camp, but each time they were stopped by the police. Some protesters relocated to the Old Arbat, where Occupy degenerated into street gatherings involving peaceful songs accompanied by guitar, flirting, and idle conversations about various topics.

People on right: “Antifa are fags!”

June 12, 2012
. The second March of the Millions started on Pushkin Square. Columns of anarchists and nationalists marched on opposite sides of the boulevard ring, with the neo-Nazis shouting insults at the antifa. The march ended on Sakharov Avenue. The Interior Ministry estimated that 18,000 people attended the event, while organizers put the number at around 100,000.

Policeman: “Citizens, keep the peace!”
Crowd: “Mother of God, drive Putin out!”

August 17, 2012.
The verdict in the Pussy Riot case was announced in the Khamovniki District Court. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison. Hundreds of the punk group’s supporters surrounded the courthouse, and a spontaneous demonstration began. Police pulled people from the crowd—teenagers in colored balaclavas, old women with placards, and prominent opposition figures—and threw them into paddy wagons.

Nationalists: “Moscow without wogs!”

September 15, 2012.
After a summer lull, the third March of the Millions, the least well attended, took place. It repeated the route of the previous march. A fight between nationalists and anti-fascists broke out. People in the communist column blamed liberals for the petering-out of the protests. Liberals expressed their fear of both rightists and leftists. The event was scheduled to last until ten in the evening, but by five o’clock people had already begun to go home.  Sergei Udaltsov urged the hundred or so protesters who remained to organized a Maidan or veche. Udaltsov was arrested at 10:01 p.m.

2012 was an eventful year in Russia politically. What did the thousands-strong rallies and marches, the Occupy camps in Moscow, and the Pussy Riot trial change?

We have the trials of the “prisoners of May 6,” one of whom has already been sentenced to prison; the new laws on rallies; opposition leaders who are inscrutable (and unpleasant) to most of the Russian population; and the provinces, practically untouched by the protests. On the other hand, we see a growth in social activism and political awareness, which would hardly have been possible without the massive involvement of citizens in opposition rallies and protest actions. I feel that involvement in the protests has greatly changed me, and I see that my acquaintances who were involved in the protests have also changed.  The overall growth of civic consciousness cannot be measured in numbers, but we can hope that it will make itself felt again.

Editor’s Note
. Originally published (in Russian) in Volya 8 (40), December 2012; subsequently published on Liva.com.ua. Photo of Victoria Lomasko (with Volya editor Vlad Tupikin on her left) by Vlad Chizhenkov. Thanks to Victoria Lomasko for her permission to translate her chronicle and reprint her drawings here.


Filed under activism, contemporary art, political repression, protests, Russian society, urban movements (right to the city)

Revolution in the Net (Helsinki)


8.11 – 2.12.2012
Revolution in the Net

The exhibition Revolution in the Net deals with social and political conditions in contemporary Russia, focusing on the political events surrounding the presidential election in spring 2012. It includes works by Russian artists and artist collectives: Olga Zhitlina; Factory of Found Clothes (FFC) represented by Natalya Pershina Yakimanskaya (Gluklya); and the collective Gentle Women (Nezhnue Babu, Evgenia Lapteva and Alexandra Artamonova). The exhibition is curated by St Petersburg-based curator Anna Bitkina.

The election of Vladimir Putin for a third term as president prompted profound disagreement among the politically engaged citizens of Russia. A series of actions that included huge demonstrations, protest meetings and concerts took place prior to and after the election. The demonstrations were followed by large-scale arrests (including that of Pussy Riot band members) and police raids. “Political tension is growing. The Russian Police and the Federal Security Service are building up a control net across the country that can catch anyone who wears a balaclava mask or holds up a protest slogan. Another controlling body is the Orthodox Church in Russia,” says Bitkina.

“The most immediate reactions to the current political situation continue to take place on the Internet, which is still a semi-free space where freedom of speech is less curtailed. This online revolt has created a network of people who care about the future of Russia, and has divided the country into those who are for and those who are against the Putin regime,” says Bitkina.

The exhibition artists express views on the current situation and convey the general mood of Russian society today. In her documented performance Political as Personal Olga Zhitlina tries to engage bored, lonely, apathetic Internet users in political discussion by showing them documentation of political actions recorded on her cell phone. Her other work, Week of Silence, a new online play in seven parts, deals with young Russian women’s experience of gender and global politics, and will be shown at the Cable Gallery on November 22, followed by a discussion between the exhibition curator Anna Bitkina and the artist. Factory of Found Clothes have worked with the main features of Pussy Riot’s outfit (colourful dresses and balaclava masks) and have constructed a net-like installation out of women’s stockings and dresses. Gentle Women, a young collective from Kaliningrad, presents Dirt, a video work in the style of a Tarkovsky film. “This rather abstract, yet romantic video loop could be interpreted as a revolutionary act of opposition by brave, strong young Russian women,” Bitkina concludes.

Zhitlina’s performance and FFC’s installation have been produced for the exhibition at the Cable Gallery. Olga Zhitlina will be on a residency at HIAP Suomenlinna for the exhibition period, and curator Anna Bitkina from November 11 until December 16.

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art, feminism, gay rights, political repression, protests, Russian society

What Happens to You in Petersburg if You Blow the Whistle on Vote Rigging

June 1, 2012

Vasileostrovsky District Court [in Petersburg] handed down a decision in the [defamation] suit filed by district education department head Natalya Nazarova against teacher Tatyana Ivanova. The court ruled partly in favor of the plaintiff: for her interview [published in Novaya Gazeta], Ivanova must pay the plaintiff compensation of 30 thousand rubles [approx. 720 euros], and Novaya Gazeta and Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge must publish a rebuttal, our correspondent reports. However, lawyers for the newspaper’s Moscow and St. Petersburg editions, Natela Ponomaryova and Ekaterina Sedova, have already promised to appeal the decision of the Vasileostrovsky court.

Tatyana Ivanova was supported in court today not only by her students, but also by [Petersburg] Legislative Assembly deputy Boris Vishnevsky and Moscow journalist Olga Romanova. The verdict was greeted with cries of “Shame!” Ivanova’s students stood at the entrance to the courthouse with a placard that read, “Parents, protect your children from Nazarova.” Ivanova herself does not agree with the decision of the court, although she expected this outcome.

“I don’t know how the judge is feeling. But if I were in the judge’s shoes, I would be ashamed to make such a decision,” Ivanova told journalists after the verdict was announced.

Tatyana Ivanova was forced to resign from her position at School No. 575 after she gave an interview to Novaya Gazeta in which she described Natalya Nazarova’s alleged direct involvement in vote rigging during the December [2011 Russian parliamentary] elections. Nazarova responded by filing suit against the teacher, as well as the media that published the interview and the journalist who conducted it, for allegedly defaming her professional reputation. Nazarova demanded 100,000 rubles as compensation for moral damage.

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Backlash: Other Russia Activist Taisiya Osipova Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Taisiya Osipova

December 30, 2011
Backlash: Other Russia Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Ilya Azar

As 2011 came to a close, Other Russia activist Taisiya Osipova was sentenced in Smolensk to ten years in prison for the sale and possession of narcotics. Osipova, who suffers from several serious diseases and has a five-year-old daughter, was kept in detention for over a year before hearing the verdict. The opposition and human rights activists consider the Osipova case political and symbolic for Russia.

“After Taisiya Osipova’s verdict, the opposition’s struggle for power in Russia has turned into a struggle against pure evil, into a fight on the side of good,” wrote Sergei Aksenov, a former National Bolshevik and a leader of The Other Russia, on his Twitter account. And he’s not the only one: on the evening of December 29, the Runet seethed with indignation, and the word “bitches,” addressed to the authorities in general and the judiciary in particular, was one of the mildest epithets.

According to oppositionists, the main representative of evil in the Taisiya Osipova case is Yevgeny Dvoryanchikov, judge of Smolensk’s Zadneprovsky District Court. It was he who on December 29 sentenced Osipova to ten years in prison for possession and sale of drugs under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code. The fact that Osipova has diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic pyelonephritis, and that she has a five-year-old daughter, Katrine, made no impression on him. (The World Organization Against Torture had twice appealed to Russian authorities to release Osipova.)

True, Dvoryanchikov still did not have not an easy time making the decision: he retired to chambers to write the verdict at twelve noon, returning to the courtroom at around midnight (he began reading out the verdict at 11:15 p.m.). It is not clear why Dvoryanchikov took so long to write the verdict and what was going in his chambers during this time. Other Russia leader and writer Eduard Limonov has already labeled the judge’s actions “vile” and an attempt to conceal the verdict from the public.

The general public does not know about the Osipova case, despite the fact this past summer (when the verdict was supposed to have been rendered), Other Russia activists staged a sit-down strike over several days at the Solovki Stone in downtown Moscow. The police confronted the strikers as best they could, surrounding the square and detaining the harmless activists as they made their way to the stone.

Osipova was arrested on November 23, 2010, when five packets containing an unknown substance and marked bills were found in her home. Osipova was charged with possession of narcotics possession under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code.

According to police investigators, Osipova had sold four grams of heroin for three thousands rubles, and an additional nine grams were found in her home. Defense attorneys and journalists were alarmed by the fact that the witnesses during the controlled buys [staged by police] were three young women associated with pro-Kremlin youth movements. At the same time, the [packets containing the] seized substance were not fingerprinted: defense attorneys are thus certain that the heroin was planted in Taisiya’s home.

Other Russia activists have always maintained that the Osipova case is utterly political. Her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, is a member of The Other Russia’s executive committee. Osipova claimed that the police investigators who detained her told her directly that they were not interested in her, but in her husband, who lives in Moscow. Fearing arrest, Fomchenkov never once traveled from the capital to Smolensk to visit his arrested wife.

Alexander Averin, a representative of The Other Russia and ex-press secretary of the banned National Bolshevik Party, told Lenta.Ru that police had immediately promised to give her ten years if she did not testify against Fomchenkov. The guilty verdict was not a surprise for the opposition, although few had expected such a harsh sentence (despite the fact that the prosecutor had asked the judge to sentence Osipova to twelve years and eight months in prison).

“I see Dvoryanchikov’s face: he knows there is nothing to the charges. He’s just carrying out orders. It’s not his decision, but he’s an ambitious careerist, and doesn’t want problems. So I just have to get to the appeals stage and keep working,” Osipova herself said in an interview with Grani.Ru in December.

Svetlana Sidorkina, an attorney with the human rights association Agora who, along with Smolensk lawyer Natalya Shaposhnikova, served as Osipova’s defense counsel, told Lenta.Ru that, in the wake of the verdict, defense attorneys intend both to file an appeal and petition the [European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg. Sidorkina has no illusions about the prospects of an appeal. “We definitely hoped for the best, but we also didn’t rule out such a [harsh] outcome. I assumed that the sentence would be six and a half years, while Shaposhnikova [thought it would be] eight, but unfortunately we both guessed wrong,” said the lawyer.

The Other Russia now intends to fight for Osipova, and is counting on public support. In December 2011, civil society in Russia, especially in Moscow, suddenly and powerfully made itself heard. Tens of thousands of people came out for the fair elections rallies on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Boulevard, and almost a thousand people came to a protest in defense of [arrested] Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov.

“This is a slap in the face of civil society. People came out and demanded honesty and justice from the authorities, and this was the response — Judge Borovkova, the arrests of Udaltsov and Nikitenko, and, to top it all off, a ten-year sentence for Osipova. The state has recovered its senses and delivered a counterblow. I wonder how society will react to this — will it go celebrate the New Year or will it defend the freedom of political prisoners?” Averin put it emotionally last night.

He added that the traditional Strategy 31 rally on Triumfalnaya Square on December 31 would be dedicated to Taisia and political prisoners in general. “Lots of people are indignant over this verdict. Different people have been calling me who weren’t planning to come out on December 31 but who have now decided to go,” said Averin. On the night of December 30, there in fact were appeals on the Internet to go to the unauthorized rally in support of Osipova on Triumfalnaya Square.

A year ago on December 31, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of the Solidarity movement, were arrested at a Strategy 31 rally. They both rang in the New Year behind bars: Nemtsov was sentenced to fifteen days in jail, while Yashin was sentenced to five. In 2009, Sergei Mokhnatkin was arrested during a New Year’s Eve rally: he was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison for [allegedly] assaulting a police officer.

It is a big question whether “enraged city dwellers” will take to Triumfalnaya Square over the harsh verdict handed to ex-National Bolshevik Osipova. Or are rigged elections the only thing that, for the time being, can really enrage them?

Photo courtesy of Free Voina. See their coverage of the Osipova case here (in Russian) and here (in English).

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Petersburg Court Rejects Filipp Kostenko’s Appeal

Kostenko Loses Release Appeal
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
December 28, 2011

An appeals court on Monday refused to free Filipp Kostenko, who after serving 15 days in prison was sentenced to another 15 days last week in what his lawyer describes as a “political reprisal.”

Originally, Kostenko, an activist and employee of the human rights organization Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, was arrested amid spontaneous protests against electoral fraud near Gostiny Dvor on Dec. 6. The following day, the court sentenced him to 15 days imprisonment for an alleged failure to follow a police officer’s orders, the maximum punishment for such an offence.

On Dec. 21, Kostenko was not released after serving his term. As around 20 friends were waiting for him outside the prison on Zakharyevskaya Ulitsa, upon leaving his cell he was detained again by officers from the counter-extremism agency Center “E”, who took him to a police precinct, his lawyer Olga Tseitlina said.

Kostenko’s political views have been described as anarchist and anti-fascist, which would make him a “person of interest” to Center “E”.

The arrest was made on the basis of the fact that Kostenko did not appear in the court for a prior alleged offense, although at the time he was actually in custody.

This other case involved charges that Kostenko allegedly used foul language when bringing food parcels to arrested friends on Oct. 16.

During the hearing the following day, Judge Yelena Yermolina did not agree to summon the police officers on whose reports the sentence was based to testify as witnesses and be cross-examined, according to Tseitlina.

The testimonies of defense witnesses were dismissed by Yermolina, who said that she trusted the police officers’ reports.

In doing so, Yermolina deprived Kostenko of the right to a fair court hearing, which is a fundamental violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Russia is a signatory, Tseitlina said.

“The entire prosecution is based on the policemen’s reports,” she said. “If a prison term is a possible punishment [for a crime], one of the fundamental rights is to examine the witnesses who testify against you.”

Tseitlina described the charges as “absurd.”

“Why should Kostenko come to a police precinct and swear in public?” she asked.

“Also, it was 11 p.m., with nobody around, so how could he have disturbed the peace? If we look at judicial practice, such an offense is never punished that strictly. Usually, it is punished with a fine.”

For the first 16 days of his detention, Kostenko held a hunger strike, which led to deteriorated eyesight. He ended it when the people who were in prison with him on the same charges were released.

“This is revenge, political reprisal and a measure to stop Kostenko from his protest activities,” Tseitlina said.

“Even if we allow that Kostenko did use foul language – which is not the case, because he’s not that type of person – the punishment is disproportionate. And we cannot rule out that something like this will happen when he is released next time.”

In a recent statement, Memorial described the continued detention of Kostenko as “obviously politically motivated.”

“For all intents and purposes, [the state] is continuing to persecute Kostenko for his involvement in protest actions,” it said.

Tseitlina would not give the expected date of Kostenko’s release, but said that he would see in the New Year in custody.

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Khimki Forest Defender Yaroslav Nikitenko Sentenced to 10 Days in Jail


December 26, 2011

Yaroslav Nikitenko, Activist with the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, Gets 10 Days in Jail Today

The sentence was handed down in the absence of the defendant’s lawyers, witnesses, and journalists. The reason for this was that officers at the Kitai Gorod police precinct, from which Nikitenko was transported to court this morning, gave his lawyers the address of one courthouse, while Nikitenko was taken to a different address, Elena Nadezhkina, a civic activist, told Novaya Gazeta.

She reported that the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest activist had been detained yesterday evening [December 25] on Novaya Ploshchad outside the entrance to Judicial Precinct No. 370 in Moscow’s Tverskoi District, where he had come to support Sergei Udaltsov, who yesterday was also sentenced to ten days of administrative arrest. Yaroslav Nikitenko was charged under the very same article of the Administrative Code (Article 19.3, “Failure to obey the lawful command of a police officer”) as Udaltsov. Nikitenko’s arrest report alleges that he shouted the slogan, “Judge Borovkova should be put on trial!”

We should note that on December 22 of this year, civic activist Gennady Stroganov and Oborona activist Fyodor Khodkov, also charged under Article 19.3, were sentenced to six days in jail by Judge Borovkova for their involvement in the protest action “Deputies, Turn in Your Mandates!” near the State Duma. Other Russia activist Sergei Aksyonov was also sentenced to five days in jail at this same time.

Moreover, their trials were conducted with numerous procedural violations, in particular, their lawyers were not admitted to the proceedings.


Here is Yaroslav Nikitenko in a video appeal (in English), taped in May of this year in the Khimki Forest:

A Facebook group, Freedom for Yaroslav Nikitenko, has been set up to discuss how to support him during his imprisonment.


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Left Front Leader Sergei Udaltsov Sentenced to 10 More Days in Jail

Udaltsov’s release has become one of the main tasks of the moment. This is not just a matter of countering repression and judicial fraud. Today, when we stood in front of the courthouse, whose front door was rudely shut in the lawyer’s face, and “witnesses,” their faces covered, were led into the courthouse surrounded by riot police specially brought in for the occasion, the authorities once again vividly and defiantly demonstrated the political boundaries of protest.

It is they, the people who give orders to Judge Borovkova, who are deciding who will lead the movement for democracy and fair elections (a movement that has already won over nearly everyone, including Alexei Kudrin and Vladislav Surkov) and who will die in prison, deprived of the elementary right to a fair trial.

Taking to the streets on December 29 and demanding the immediate release of Udaltsov is just as (if not more) important than it was to take to the streets on the 10th and 24th. This is a test for all of us: whether we are honest with ourselves and consistent when we confront the freaks in power.

— Ilya Budraitskis



Russia Opposition Activist to Be Held 10 More Days
MOSCOW December 25, 2011 (AP)

A prominent Russian opposition activist had barely half an hour of freedom Sunday before being sentenced to 10 more days in jail — making it the 14th time this year he’s been detained.

The decision by a Moscow court late Sunday to find Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov guilty of a charge of resisting police came a day after Russia witnessed the largest protest rally in its post-Soviet history. As demonstrators vented frustration Saturday with the scandal-marred parliamentary election of Dec. 4 that left Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in control, many prominent figures called for Udaltsov’s release.

How the Kremlin chooses to deal with Udaltsov could prove a litmus test for how it approaches the opposition in the coming days. During Putin’s decade-plus long tenure as president and prime minister, opposition activists have faced numerous crackdowns, but their cause appears to have been boosted by allegations of fraud during the recent election.

The Left Front leader was due to be released Sunday from a hospital, where he was being treated as he served the final days of his previous sentence. Udaltsov, who had been held since election day on claims of staging an unsanctioned rally, had spent much of the month on a hunger strike.

Found guilty of resisting police, Udaltsov was escorted back to the hospital Sunday night after he felt unwell in court.

“He was so stressed out that he fell ill,” Udaltsov’s lawyer, Nikolay Polozov, said.

Prominent opposition leaders came to the court to support Udaltsov. Many have referred to his constant detentions as political harassment. The Left Front leader has spent at least 50 days in jail this year.

The court on Sunday found that Udaltsov resisted police on Oct. 24 while being detained outside the Central Election Committee’s building.

A video of his detention, filmed by the Associated Press Television, shows the activist arrive on a bicycle and later talk to reporters.

Udaltsov was telling the press that he had come out to the election committee’s headquarters to stage a one-man picket, which requires no sanction from authorities. Shortly afterwards, police came and took Udaltsov away. Udaltsov did not appear to be putting [up] resistance.

Udaltsov’s lawyer said they would appeal the verdict.


State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov and a group of journalists attempt (unsuccessfully) to get into the Moscow courtroom where Sergei Udaltsov was sentenced to another ten days in jail on December 25.

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Filed under leftist movements, political repression, Russian society