Tag Archives: Anatomy of a Protest 2

International Days of Solidarity against Political Repression in Russia

A Call for International Days of Solidarity against Political Repression in Russia, November 29—December 2, 2012

An appeal from Russian leftists to their comrades in the struggle

Today we, members of Russian leftist organizations, appeal to our comrades all over the world for solidarity. This appeal and your response to it are vital to us. We are now facing not just another instance of innocent people sentenced by the punitive Russian “justice” system or another human life wrecked by the state. The authorities have launched a crackdown without precedent in Russia’s recent history, a campaign whose goal is to extinguish the left as an organized political force. The recent arrests, threats, beatings, aggressive media attacks and moves towards declaring leftist groups illegal all point to a new general strategy on the part of the authorities, a strategy much crueler and much less predictable than what we have seen in recent years.

The massive protest movement that began in December 2011 radically changed the atmosphere of political and social passivity established during the Putin years. Tens of thousands of young and middle-aged people, office workers and state employees, took to the streets and demanded change. On December 10 and 24, 2011, and, later, on February 4, 2012, Moscow, Petersburg and other major Russian cities were the sites of massive rallies, demonstrating that a significant part of society had undergone a new level of politicization. The “managed democracy” model crafted by the ruling elite over many years went bankrupt in a matter of days. Political trickery stopped working when confronted by real grassroots politics. The movement, whose demands were initially limited to “honest elections,” quickly grew into a protest against the entire political system.

After the elections of March 4, 2012, during which Vladimir Putin, using a combination of massive administrative pressure on voters, massive vote rigging and mendacious populist rhetoric, secured another term for himself, many thought that the potential for protest mobilization had been exhausted. The naïve hopes of the thousands of opposition volunteers who served as election observers in order to put an end to voter fraud, were crushed.

The next demonstration, in whose success few believed, was scheduled for downtown Moscow on May 6, 2012, the day before Putin’s inauguration. On this day, however, despite the skeptical predictions, more than 60,000 people showed up for an opposition march and rally. When the march approached the square where the rally was to take place, the police organized a massive provocation, blocking the marchers’ path to the square. All those who attempted to circumvent the police cordon were subjected to beatings and arrests. The unprecedented police violence produced resistance on the part of some protesters, who resisted arrests and refused to leave the square until everyone had been freed. The confrontation on May 6 lasted several hours. In the end, around 650 people were arrested, some of them spending the night in jail.

The next day, Putin’s motorcade traveled to his inauguration through an empty Moscow. Along with the protesters, the police had cleared the city center of all pedestrians. The new protest movement had demonstrated its power and a new degree of radicalization. The events of May 6 gave rise to the Russian Occupy movement, which brought thousands of young people to the center of Moscow and held its ground until the end of May. Leftist groups, who until then had been peripheral to the protest movement’s established liberal spokespeople, were progressively playing a larger role.

Those events were a signal to the authorities: the movement had gone beyond the permissible, the elections were over, and it was time to show their teeth. Almost immediately, a criminal investigation was launched into the “riot,” and on May 27, the first arrest took place. 18-year-old anarchist Alexandra Dukhanina was accused of involvement in rioting and engaging in violence against police officers. The arrests continued over the next few days. The accused included both seasoned political activists (mainly leftists) and ordinary people for whom the May 6 demonstrations were their first experience of street politics.

Nineteen people have so far been accused of involvement in those “disturbances.” Twelve of them are now being held in pre-trial detention facilities. Here are some of their stories:

⁃ Vladimir Akimenkov, 25, communist and Left Front activist. Arrested on June 10, 2012, he will be in pre-trial detention until March 6, 2013. Akimenkov was born with poor eyesight, which has deteriorated even further while he has been in jail. His most recent examination showed he has 10% vision in one eye, and 20% in the other. This, however, was not a sufficient grounds for the court to substitute house arrest for detention. At Akimenkov’s last court hearing, the judge cynically commented that only total blindness would make him reconsider his decision.

⁃ Mikhail Kosenko, 36, no political affiliation, arrested on June 8. Kosenko, who suffers from psychological disorders, also asked that he be placed under house arrest rather in pre-trial detention. However, the court has declared him a “danger to society” and plans to force him to undergo psychiatric treatment.

⁃ Stepan Zimin, 20, anarchist and anti-fascist, arrested on June 8 and placed in pre-trial detention until March 6, 2013, after which date his arrest can be extended. Zimin supports his single mother, yet once again the court did not consider this sufficient grounds to release him on his own recognizance.

⁃ Nikolai Kavkazsky, 26, socialist, human rights activist and LGBT activist. Detained on July 25.

Investigators have no clear evidence proving the guilt of any of these detainees. Nevertheless, they remain in jail and new suspects steadily join their ranks. Thus, the latest suspect in the May 6 case, 51-year-old liberal activist and scholar Sergei Krivov, was arrested quite recently, on October 18. There is every indication he will not be the last.

If the arrests of almost twenty ordinary protesters were intended to inspire fear in the protest movement, then the hunt for the “organizers of mass disturbances” is meant to strike at its acknowledged leaders. According to the investigation, the so-called riot was the result of a conspiracy, and all the arrestees had been given special assignments. This shows that we are dealing not only with a series of arrests, but with preparations for a large-scale political trial against the opposition.

On October 5, NTV, one of Russia’s major television channels, aired an “investigative documentary” that leveled fantastical charges against the opposition and in particular, against the most famous member of the left, Sergei Udaltsov. This Goebbelsian propaganda mash-up informed viewers of Udaltsov’s alleged ties with foreign intelligence, and the activities of the Left Front that he heads were declared a plot by foreign enemies of the state. By way of decisive proof, the broadcast included a recording of an alleged meeting involving Sergei Udaltsov, Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev, Russian Socialist Movement member Konstantin Lebedev, and Givi Targamadze, one of the closest advisors to the president of Georgia. In particular, the conversation includes talk of money delivered by the Georgians for “destabilizing” Russia.

Despite the fact that the faces in the recording are practically indiscernible and the sound has clearly been edited and added separately to the video, within a mere two days the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Prosecutor General’s Office (the state law enforcement agency playing the lead role in organizing the current crackdown) used it to launch a criminal case. On October 17, Konstantin Lebedev was arrested and Sergei Udaltsov released after interrogation, having signed a pledge not to travel beyond the Moscow city limits. On October 19, a third suspect in the new case, Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev, attempted to apply for refugee status in the Kyiv offices of the UNHCR. As soon as he stepped outside the building, persons unknown violently forced him into a vehicle and illegally transported him across the Ukrainian border onto Russian territory. At an undisclosed location in Russia he was subjected to torture and threats (including regarding the safety of his family) and forced to sign a “voluntary confession.” In this statement, Razvozzhayev confessed to ties with foreign intelligence and to preparations for an armed insurgency, in which Konstantin Lebedev and Sergei Udaltsov were also involved. Razvozzhayev was then taken to Moscow and jailed as as an accused suspect. Razvozzhayev has subsequently asserted in meetings with human rights activists that he disavows this testimony, which was obtained under duress. However, police investigators have every intention of using it. We know of the existence of “Razvozzhayev’s list,” a list beaten out of him by torture: it contains the names of people who will soon also become targets of persecution.

The scope of the crackdown is steadily growing. The Investigative Committee recently announced an inquiry into Sergei Udaltsov’s organization, the Left Front, which may well result in its being banned as an “extremist” organization. Pressure against the anti-fascist movement is likewise building. Well-known anti-fascist activists Alexey Sutuga, Alexey Olesinov, Igor Kharchenko, Irina Lipskaya and Alen Volikov have been detained on fabricated charges and are being held in police custody in Moscow. Socialist and anti-fascist Filipp Dolbunov has been interrogated and threatened on several occasions.

It is hardly accidental that most victims of this unprecedented wave of repression are involved in the leftist movement. On the eve of the introduction of austerity measures, curtailment of labor rights and pension reforms in Russia, the Putin-Medvedev administration is most afraid of an alliance between the existing democratic movement and possible social protest. Today’s wave of repressions is the most important test for Russia’s new protest movement: either we hold strong or a new period of mass apathy and fear awaits us. It is precisely for this reason, faced with unprecedented political pressure, that the solidarity of our comrades in Europe and the entire world is so crucial.

We appeal to you to organize Days of Solidarity against Political Repression from November 29 to December 2 outside the Russian Federation embassy or any other Russian government misson in your countries, demanding the immediate release of those who have been illegally arrested and termination of the shameful criminal cases and preparations for new “Moscow trials” based on torture and fabrications. We also ask that you use the specific names and details we have provided in this appeal in your own protests and demands. This is crucial for every person now behind bars.

Please send your reports on solidarity actions and any other information or questions to the following email address: solidarityaction2012@gmail.com

Solidarity is our only weapon! United, we will never be defeated!

Russian Socialist Movement, Autonomous Action, Left Front

*Editor’s Note. Originally published in Russian here, and in English here. The original English translation has been edited slightly to make it more readable and accurate.

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A Police Story (What Happened to Filipp Dolbunov)

(Originally published in Russian at: http://russ.ru/Mirovaya-povestka/Sluchaj-iz-policejskoj-zhizni)

A Police Story
Ilya Matveev

Filipp Dolbunov is nineteen and a student in the cultural studies department at the State Academic University for the Humanities (GAUGN) in Moscow.

Filipp is an anti-fascist, a friend of mine, and a comrade in the Russian Socialist Movement. He is a smart, brave and responsible young man. Filipp was involved in defending the Khimki and Tsagovsky forests, and he has worked with us in the Russian Socialist Movement on many protest actions. He went to organizing committee meetings, and handed out leaflets and newspapers—the usual activist routine.

During the afternoon of October 25, police detectives broke into Filipp’s home. Threatening him and accompanied by his parents’ shouts, they dragged him outside to a car. This story had begun earlier, however.

Filipp is friends with Stepan Zimin, an anarchist and anti-fascist arrested in connection with the May 6 Bolotnaya Square “riot” case. When Filipp found out that Zimin had been arrested, he contacted lawyer Vasily Kushnir. It transpired that there was not a single defense witness in the entire case (which now involves nearly twenty official suspects, including Zimin; twelve of the suspects are currently in police custody.)

Kirov resident Alexei Orlov had been willing to testify on Zimin’s behalf, but local police pressured him into refusing. Filipp then decided to testify himself, because he had been on Bolotnaya Square on May 6 in the thick of the “riot” (i.e., a police assault on protesters taking part in a officially authorized march and rally) and saw that Zimin had not committed any illegal acts.

Filipp and his lawyer waited for a summons from the Investigative Committee for two weeks, but the summons never did come.

On October 25, Kushnir filed a second motion to have Filipp summoned as a witness. On the same day—perhaps this was a coincidence, perhaps not—police came to his home and took him to the Investigative Committee without allowing him to call his lawyer.

The policemen threatened Filipp the entire way. They stopped the car near a forest (Filipp lives in the inner-ring Moscow suburb of Balashikha) and told him everything now depended on how he talked with them. If he refused to talk, they could have their conversation in the woods. “Get out and smoke your last cigarette,” he was told.

A detective with a camera got out of a second car, and the men began asking Filipp questions. He refused to answer. A policeman turned his head. “Look at the camera, bitch!” he told Filipp.

Filipp was again forced into the car. Outside the Investigative Committee building, he was met by investigator Timofei Grachov, who said to him, “You don’t want to be a prison bitch? Then you need to make friends with me.”

The interrogation began. For starters Grachov jabbed Filipp in the face twice with his fist and cuffed him on the nape of his neck. “Don’t look at me like I’m shit or you’ll end up shit yourself,” Grachov said. Then he relaxed.

One of the detectives in the room threatened he would call his acquaintance the warden of Butyrka prison and arrange for Filipp to be put in a cell with hardened criminals.

Filipp was asked what he had been doing on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, whether he knew Konstantin Lebedev, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Sergei Udaltsov, whether he had been involved in the protest movement for a long time, and what he thought about the NTV documentary film “Anatomy of a Protest 2.” Filipp answered none of these questions, invoking Article 51 of the Russian Federation Constitution (“No one shall be obliged to give evidence against himself or herself, his or her spouse or close relatives”) and pointing out that he had not been allowed to call an attorney.

A statement was then placed before Filipp indicating that he had refused to answer police investigators’ questions under Article 51 of the Constitution (Filipp added, in writing, that he had not been provided with an attorney) and an off-the-record interrogation began.

Aside from endless foul language and threats, Grachov came up with a new means of getting at Filipp—he said he would bring Filipp’s mother to the Investigative Committee and she would tearfully implore him to testify. The local beat cop told Filipp over the phone that his mother was on her way, but in the event she did not arrive.

After the interrogation (which lasted a total of five hours), Filipp spent another hour and a half sitting in a locked office. He was then handcuffed and taken outside. At the entrance, he saw civil rights lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky and managed to tell him to spread the word on the Net that he had been detained in the May 6 Bolotnaya Square case. Soon, all of us—my friends and I—began to receive bits of information about what was going on.

Filipp was taken back home, where police would conduct a search. Although he was handcuffed, there was a book in his coat pocket, Gramsci’s “Art and Politics,” and he read the whole drive home.

When they arrived at his home, the search began. The police could not avoid dirty tricks here, either: the detectives intimidated Filipp’s grandfather, a war veteran, and took his mother to another room and told her that her son was an “extremist.”

Police found a copy of The Communist Manifesto in Filipp’s apartment. They were about to confiscate it, but then they realized that it was probably not a banned work. Just to make sure, a detective checked the Federal List of Extremist Materials on a laptop and discovered that it was not, indeed, prohibited.

In the end, police seized the system unit of Filipp’s computer, five SIM cards and that book he was reading, “Art and Politics.” Police drew up an inventory of the seized items and, as they were leaving, they gave Filipp a written witness summons for that very same day!

Filipp is, apparently, now an official witness in the Udaltsov-Lebedev-Razvozzhayev case. In keeping with the petition he filed, he might still be summoned to the Investigative Committee. And yet he was not arrested on October 25. For other people, however, the horror continues.

It continues for Vladimir Akimenkov, who has nearly gone blind while in police custody. A court recently extended his arrest until March 2013, because only total blindness could serve as a mitigating circumstance in continuing to detain him.

It continues for Leonid Razvozzhayev, who was abducted and tortured into making a confession.

It continues for the other prisoners in the Bolotnaya Square case. It continues for Konstantin Lebedev.

Why I have written in such detail about what happened to Filipp? Because I want as many people as possible to know what is going on. Please help me spread this information. After all, someone might still be suffering from the illusion that only dangerous members of the “underground” are imprisoned and tried, only people who know what they are getting into, so to speak. But no, the crackdown affects ordinary activists—students, artists, scholars, etc.—that is, people you know. It is like in Ilya Kabakov’s well-known installation Toilet: the nastiness is right where you live, right next to your kitchen table, and it won’t do to pretend that all is well. Follow reports on the Net, help spread this information, go to solidarity rallies for political prisoners, and write them letters.

In conclusion, I would like to repeat the last two phrases from our statement on the arrest of Konstantin Lebedev.

Those who today feel they act with impunity will answer for everything they have done. We will not forget any of their villainous acts and we will not forgive them.

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