Tag Archives: Georgy Poltavchenko

The Cradle of Three Revolutions and Russia’s Cultural Capital Bids Farewell to Freedom of Assembly

www.fontanka.ru

Poltavchenko has banned demonstrations on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Isaac’s Square and Palace Square

March 20, 2013

St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has signed amendments to the law on rallies and demonstrations. The document was signed on March 19 and published on the official website today.

Under the amendments, Nevsky Prospekt, St. Isaac’s Square, and Palace Square will be closed to mass protest actions. It is also prohibited to hold a rally at a distance of 50 meters from buildings where government offices are located.

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On February 20, the Legislative Assembly adopted en bloc amendments to the Law “On Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets in St. Petersburg,” and the same day submitted them for the Governor to sign.

“This Law of St. Petersburg will enter into force ten days after its publication,” the statement reads.

Photo: Fontanka River, St. Petersburg, March 17, 2013. Courtesy of Chtodelat News

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FAQ about Petersburg, Russia’s Cultural Capital

Why was St Petersburg selected as Host for Manifesta 10?

Manifesta is the only roving biennial in the world, changing locations every two years. Its origin is based on addressing the disbalance in between East and West Europe after the fall of the Wall at the end of the 1980’s. St.Petersburg is the crucial European city to question such a disbalance today. Alexander Pushkin called the former capital of Russia the ‘window to Europe’.

Source: manifesta.org

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Why are Petersburgers on the point of being essentially banned from protesting in the center of their own city, the ‘window to Europe,’ recently selected by Manifesta, the ultra-progressive European biennial of contemporary art, to host its 2014 event?

Because, unfortunately, some Petersburgers have in the recent past exercised their constitutional right to free speech and freedom of assembly in a provocative, irresponsible way by calling for things vehemently disapproved of by the vast majority of rank-and-file Petersburgers, things like free and fair elections, gay rights, preservation of historic buildings and green spaces, an end to racist assaults and murders, free public health care and education, freedom of assembly, etc. Also, as Russia’s cultural capital, Petersburg has a special duty to ensure that everyone can enjoy its cultural riches and sights: protesters prevent ordinary people and tourists from doing just that by blocking sidewalks and squares, and generally drawing attention to themselves.

New Local Bill Seeks to Ban Protests in City Center
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
February 27, 2013

Opposition political groups and concerned citizens continue to protest against a new local bill on demonstrations that effectively bans protests in the city center, passed by the Legislative Assembly last week in its third and final reading.

In hopes of preventing Governor Georgy Poltavchenko from signing it, the Yabloko Democratic Party has filed a complaint against the bill, describing it as “outrageous” and “illegal.”

“We are acting to prevent this becoming law, because, once in force, and used even once, the new law will have a devastating impact on the rights of citizens,” said Yabloko’s Nikolai Rybakov in a statement.

Called “On assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, marches and picketing in St. Petersburg,” the bill was passed Feb. 20 by 27 deputies, with 15 voting against.

The bill forbids the holding of rallies on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, as well as on Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square, which had previously been used for rallies, including the now-legendary mass protests against the 1991 anti-reformist coup.

Rallies will also be banned from within 50 meters of the entrances of buildings occupied by state authorities, while one-man demonstrations can only be held if there is no other protester within 50 meters.

According to the bill, the restrictions have been imposed “in order to protect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, the rule of law, order and public safety.”

In his statement, Grigory Yavlinsky, chair of the Yabloko faction in the city’s Legislative Assembly, stressed that by passing the law, the city parliament ignored not only the negative opinion expressed by the public at the Dec. 3 public hearing and an address by the city’s ombudsman Alexander Shishlov, but also the Constitutional Court’s Feb. 14 ruling. Every amendment proposed by opposition deputies was rejected.

Apart from harsh restrictions on rallies, the bill also states that without authorization from the authorities, no more than 200 demonstrators are allowed to assemble at specially designated sites “for the collective discussion of socially important issues and expression of public opinion.” City Hall has designated a small site on the Field of Mars for such a purpose.

Andrei Dmitriyev, local chair of The Other Russia party, said that the law may obstruct the historic May Day demonstration, a massive event featuring a broad range of political parties and movements, from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party to liberals, communists and nationalists.

“It’s even not clear how they will hold a May Day demonstration this year, when everybody always used to walk down Nevsky Prospekt and then rallied on Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square,” Dmitriyev said Tuesday.

“It’s essential not only for civic activists, but also for every citizen, because people, when they are unhappy about anything, want to come to protest where the authorities sit, be it the Governor, the Legislative Assembly, district administrations or courts.

“These are places where it’s forbidden to protest now, so they lose any meaning. Of course, it’s all illegal, it contradicts the Constitution, and we think that the main thing is not how the authorities act, but how the opposition and city residents will act.”

He said that the small site on the Field of Mars offered by City Hall as an allegedly liberal concession, allowing small groups to protest there without the necessary authorization, should be boycotted.

“No self-respecting opposition [campaigners] can rally there, but both Yabloko and the nationalists have taken the bait and obediently go there to rally. It makes no sense.”

The State Duma passed a national law harshly restricting the freedom of assembly in June 2012, following a wave of protests against the flawed State Duma and presidential elections that were held in late 2011 and early 2012. It imposed a number of restrictions on public assemblies and abruptly raised fines for holding unsanctioned protests. Local laws followed.

Rights groups have criticized the law as violating both the Russian Constitution and international agreements.

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What is the deal with Petersburg’s so-called anti-gay law? Why does it have people in Melbourne, Australia, of all places, upset?

People in Melbourne, Australia, should mind their own business. The Petersburg law you mention is not directed against gays, but against the promotion of homosexuality amongst minors. Maybe the people of Melbourne, Australia, are happy to leave their kids at the mercy of predatory faggots, pedophiles, and other sexual and political perverts, but in Petersburg we’re crazy about kids and deeply devoted to Russian Orthodox Christian family values.

Please explain: Doyle on anti-gay law
Jason Dowling
The Age
February 23, 2013

LORD mayor Robert Doyle [of Melbourne] has requested an urgent meeting with Russia’s ambassador and a briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss new anti-gay laws in St Petersburg.

The move follows a petition by Carl Katter, half-brother of federal MP Bob Katter, to have Melbourne City Council dump its sister-city relationship with St Petersburg because he said the Russian city had enacted ”horrific” anti-gay laws.

More than 4800 people have signed the petition at Change.org.

The Russian city has introduced broad laws banning ”homosexual propaganda”.

”It is referred to as the gay propaganda law, but it is all-encompassing,” said Mr Katter, a campaigner for marriage equality.

”Melbourne is one of the most progressive cities of the world … and our mayor and council should be proud of that and stand up to such blatant homophobia,” Mr Katter said.

Cr Doyle said, ”I am very aware of the new laws in St Petersburg.

”I have sought a meeting with the Russian ambassador, I will take advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and once we have had those conversations we will be making further comment,” he said.

”Obviously my first position is, it is always best to continue to talk to try and effect outcomes in a positive way.”

The Italian fashion capital Milan is already believed to have frozen its sister-city relationship with St Petersburg over the gay rights issue.

”The community has been watching what has been happening in St Petersburg and the stories that have been coming out have been pretty devastating – and the fact that we are a sister city with them is not a good look,” Mr Katter said.

 

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Kafka on the Neva: Petersburg Officials Charge LGBT Activists under Anti-Gay Law after First Authorizing Then Banning Gay Pride Rally

Petersburg Gay Pride Event Banned, Organizers Charged under Anti-Gay Law
By Sergey Chernov, The St. Petersburg Times

On Thursday evening, City Hall banned the Petersburg gay pride rally it had authorized on Tuesday and formally charged organizers with violating the city’s infamous anti-gay law. But organizers said they would go ahead with the rally despite the ban.

Organizers said that City Hall explained to them that it had imposed the ban because local media had reported it as a “gay pride event (parade),” rather than a “march and a stationary rally against the violations of LGBT people’s rights,” as the event was described in the application submitted to City Hall last week.

The organizers were summoned to City Hall on Thursday and informed it was “not possible” to hold the event and that they would be held legally liable if they went ahead with it.

According to St. Petersburg Gay Pride chair Yury Gavrikov, who is also chair of the local LGBT rights organization Ravnopraviye (Equality), after handing them the official rejection notice, the head of City Hall’s law and order committee Leonid Bogdanov told him and another organizer, Sergei Volkov, that a law enforcement official wanted to talk with them.

A police officer then entered the room and charged the two activists with violating the law forbidding “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors,” Gavrikov said.

Gavrikov and Volkov were told that they since they had distributed information about the previously authorized event to the website GayRussia.ru and local newspapers Nevskoye Vremya and Metro, they had “promote[d] the social equality of same-sex relationships and traditional marriage” among minors and thus violated the law.

“It means that first they authorized the event and then charged us with giving information about it to the media,” Gavrikov said late on Thursday, adding that he and Volkov had been detained in City Hall for more than two hours.

He also said that City Hall had insisted that all the eight people who signed the application for the event come to the meeting, but authorities had not specified that its purpose would be to ban the rally and charge them with violating the anti-gay law.

Although they already face substantial fines, St. Petersburg Gay Pride organizers said they would go ahead with the rally, scheduled for Saturday, July 7, despite the ban. They will announce the time and site at a press conference scheduled for noon on Friday.

Two previous gay pride events in St. Petersburg – on Palace Square, in 2010, and on Senate Square near the Bronze Horseman monument, in 2011 – were banned by City Hall on questionable grounds, but activists attempted to hold them anyway, resulting in arrests.

Last year, the event was attacked by a number of young men, some with their faces hidden. They managed to punch at least two LGBT activists before police arrested the activists themselves.

“The authorization was rescinded due to the fact that the format of the application did not correspond to the actual event that the LGBT activists were planning to hold,” St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko’s spokesman Andrei Kibitov told RIA Novosti.

Kibitov added that the ban was also influenced by complaints from the public. “A great number of calls and emails have been received not only from St. Petersburg, but from the other Russian cities as well, asking [us] to cancel the gay parade,” he was quoted as saying.

The “anti-propaganda” law, introduced as a bill by local United Russia  deputy Vitaly Milonov in November 2011 and signed into law by Governor Poltavchenko this past March, imposes fines of 5,000 rubles ($154) on individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,537) on officials, and 250,000 to 500,000 rubles ($7,686–15,373) on organizations that violate the law.

The St. Petersburg Gay Pride march was initially authorized Tuesday to be held in the remote and mostly deserted Polyustrovsky Park at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 7. The site was suggested by City Hall as an alternative after it rejected all the more central routes and sites suggested by organizers.

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Petersburg: Rocking the Vote

The St. Petersburg Times
December 14, 2011
More Than 10,000 Gather at Biggest Rally in 10 Years
By Sergey Chernov

Semi-spontaneous protests against widespread fraud favoring pro-Kremlin party United Russia at the Dec. 4 State Duma and St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly elections resulted in the biggest rally St. Petersburg has seen in the past decade, drawing more than 10,000 on Saturday.

Part of the national campaign of protests demanding the annulment of election results because of multiple violations — the largest being a rally in Moscow attended by between 25,000 to 150,000, according to various estimates — the St. Petersburg rally was organized via Vkontakte (the Russian equivalent of Facebook) originally as an unauthorized assembly on Ploshchad Vosstaniya in central St. Petersburg.

The Vkontakte group was called “We didn’t elect crooks and thieves,” the “party of crooks and thieves” being a popular name for United Russia coined by Moscow opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

"Putin is a thief!"

During the rally buildup, Vkontakte’s CEO Pavel Durov was summoned to the St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office on Friday after he publicly rejected demands by the Federal Security Service to shut down anti-fraud protest groups on his social network, while St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko condemned the protests as foreign interference.

“I can’t call what’s happening in our city anything other than a provocation, carefully planned abroad,” Poltavchenko said, speaking on the City Hall-financed Sankt-Peterburg cable TV channel Friday.

On the same day, St. Petersburg police chief Mikhail Sukhodolsky warned the public against participating in “unsanctioned protests,” arguing that using massive police force to break up protests results in crime-prone areas being left without police presence.

Before Saturday’s sanctioned rally, daily protests near Gostiny Dvor were held from Dec. 4 through Thursday, Dec. 8, resulting in around 630 to 640 arrests in total, according to Memorial human rights group. Tuesday saw the highest number of arrests at 247.

Those arrested, many of whom were held for one to two days in police precincts, were charged with violating the rules on holding assemblies and with failure to follow police orders. A number were sentenced to three to 15 days in custody.

Filipp Kostenko, sentenced to 15 days, and Viktor Demyanenko, sentenced to 10 days, are holding a hunger strike, Memorial said in an e-mail. Also in custody are Alexander Yashin (13 days), Alexander Martynov (10) as well as Pavel Kushch, Ilya Kostaryov and Dmitry Sharov, whose sentences are unknown. They are expected to be released between Dec. 15 and 21.

Human rights groups and the opposition said the arrests were illegal, as they violated the constitution and international agreements that Russia had signed.

The Russian law on public assemblies adopted in 2004 requires that organizers submit an application 15 days before a rally is held. Therefore the earliest protest the organizers had time to apply for would have been held on Dec. 18.

Preparation for Saturday’s rally was somewhat chaotic, as some groups urged people to meet at other sites, while the eventual site of the standup rally was not named until Friday evening after last-minute negotiations with City Hall were held.

United Civil Front (OGF) local leader Olga Kurnosova, who initiated the talks, said Tuesday that authorization was received in an “unprecedented manner.”

“Poltavchenko gave orders to police chief Sukhodolsky to provide all kinds of assistance to those rallying on Pionerskaya Ploshchad,” she said by phone Tuesday.

Hundreds, however, gathered at Ploshchad Vosstaniya and marched to Pionerskaya Ploshchad without the police attempting to stop or disperse them, except for a small clash on Nevsky Prospekt that resulted in about 10 arrests.

The rally drew a broad range of political groups, from anarchists to nationalists, but it was ordinary citizens enraged by electoral fraud who dominated the event. Many couldn’t get onto the square because of a lack of space and police cordons, and stood in nearby areas and streets, trying to listen to the speeches.

In addition to the annulment of the election results, the rally’s demands included change to restrictive election legislation, the registration of all political parties and punishment of Central Election Commission chairman Vladimir Churov. The authorities were given a week until the next rally — to be held at the same place on Dec. 18 — to react to the demands.

Yabloko, which won six seats out of the 50 in the Legislative Assembly, added to the chaos surrounding the organization of the rally by sending out a statement Friday evening urging people not to come to what it called an “unauthorized protest” on Ploshchad Vosstaniya, but to come to a “peaceful assembly” near Kazan Cathedral instead.

“Provocateurs from the ‘opposition’ and the current authoritarian regime are jointly driving the situation to bloodshed,” Yabloko’s local chair Maxim Reznik wrote. After finding out that City Hall had approved a rally on Pionerskaya Ploshchad, Reznik later encouraged people to go there.

Speaking to several dozen at a small rally near Kazan Cathedral, Reznik said that the cancelation of the election results that the “radical opposition” is demanding coincides with the interests of city authorities. Explaining his position by phone Tuesday, he said that the official results of the elections should be corrected and changed to the real results of the voting, rather than cancelled altogether.

Reznik said that the opposition had taken “half the seats” in the Legislative Assembly, including Yabloko’s eight seats, A Just Russia’s 12 seats and the Communist Party’s seven seats, as opposed to United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia’s 20 and 5 seats, respectively.

Yabloko was not allowed to take part in local elections in 2007, when a number of signatures they collected were declared “invalid,” and had been absent from the Legislative Assembly until now.

Later Reznik came to Pionerskaya Ploshchad, where the main rally was held, but was not allowed to speak by the organizers, he said. Kurnosova said Tuesday that she, as the organizer, had not been approached by Reznik.

Yabloko’s Yuly Rybakov, who did speak at the rally, directed his criticism toward “communist extremists and National Bolsheviks,” rather than to the authorities.

He said the radicals would try to engage the non-political young people who attended the rally in their networks.

According to the Other Russia party’s local chair Andrei Dmitriyev, the authorities are unlikely to meet the rally’s demands.

“People shouldn’t just let off steam, which is obviously the tactic chosen by the authorities,” Dmitriyev said.

“It’s smart enough for them. They did not use violence during the rally, and issued a permit to Kurnosova quickly enough. They’re waiting for the wave to calm down and everything to return to normal.”

Despite the ultimatum to either hold new elections or face a new wave of protests, Poltavchenko failed to react and the City Election Committee confirmed the election results Monday, he said.

“That’s why we should increase protest activity and radicalize these protest activities,” Dmitriyev said. “If rallies on Pionerskaya Ploshchad can’t force Poltavchenko to react, they should move closer to City Hall.”

In connection with Saturday’s protests, 45 were detained in central St. Petersburg, the police told Interfax. Twenty-seven were detained on Senatskaya Ploshchad for a flash mob called “The Funeral of Democracy,” during which participants stood with their mouths taped shut, holding candles.

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