Tag Archives: Petersburg

Mark Knopfler Is a True Friend of the Russian People

This is what everyone who is in Mark Knopfler’s position should do. Not “try and talk some sense” into fascist homophobes like Vitaly Milonov, as the otherwise admirable Stephen Fry recently did. Or “stand in solidarity” with political prisoners Pussy Riot on a Moscow concert stage, as Madonna did, all the while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in concert fees. The first tack violates the old anti-fascist “no platform” rule, while the second does that, too, while also generating tons of buzz for the Milonovites. More important, it rewards the relatively well-off strata of the Russian urban populace, the people who can afford tickets to Madonna and Knopfler concerts and the like, who are in fact the real bulwark of Putinism (rather than some imaginary post-Soviet “conservative” provincial “grassroots” post-proletariat), at least (but only at least) insofar as these people have been mostly absent from the fight against Putinism or any of its manifestations. In fact, if nothing else, Knopfler’s one-man boycott of their cities might alert otherwise “blissfully” unaware Petersburgers and Muscovites to the recent prosecutorial raids against NGOs in the country, which have included not only (as Knopfler mentions in his statement) Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but hundreds of lesser organizations like the Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg, the Caritas Catholic charity’s support center for disabled children in the city, the Petersburg rights organizations Citizens Watch and Coming Out (Vykhod), as well as the NGO Development Center, the German-Russian Exchange, the Centre for Independent Social Research, the Institute for Information Freedom Development and the offices of the LGBT film festival Side by Side (to mention only a few), as well as branches of Alliance Française in several other major Russian cities.

We recently reflected, so to speak, on the odd news that Manifesta, the ultra-progressive European biennial of contemporary art, had chosen Petersburg—once the “cradle of three revolutions,” now a depressive semi-fascist dump ruled over by dreary officially titled bandits in bad suits who think that legislative homophobia and “Cossacks” are a terrific way of preventing their subject population from noticing the really obvious drawbacks in their continuing “governance” of the city—for its super-serious high-brow art hootenanny next year. Upon hearing this same news, Russian contemporary art curatorial doyenne Olga Sviblova commented, “[T]here’s no reason to get all stirred up about it being in St Petersburg. We have already spent 20 years living in a normal, free country, just the same as any others.” This is manifestly not the case, and it is only by pulling (temporarily, we hope) the plug on their supply of entertainment and cultural labor that people outside Russia who are in a position to do so can show real solidarity with Russian political prisoners, local NGOs, and other people and groups targeted by the Putinist police state.

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www.markknopfler.com

Russia dates cancelled

Thursday – Apr 04, 2013

Mark’s June 7 show in Moscow and June 8 date in St. Petersburg have been cancelled. Ticket holders should contact their point of purchase for refunds.

Please see Mark’s official statement below:

Given the crackdown by Russian authorities on groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, I have regretfully decided to cancel my upcoming concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg in June. I have always loved playing in Russia and have great affection for the country and the people. I hope the current climate will change soon.

MK

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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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We Have No Honor to “Play Off”

Playoff for the Honor of Our City. Obvodny Canal, Petersburg, February 23, 2013

 

Unfortunately, we have no honor to “play off”. . .

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Gay Groups Continue to Fight Unfair Treatment
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
February 20, 2013

The small village of Novosyolki, southwest of St. Petersburg, has become City Hall’s favorite site to send St. Petersburg’s LGBT rights activists to rally, as the organizers of another protest planned this week found out when they were told that 15 sites they had suggested within the city were unavailable for their assembly. Meanwhile, a local court found no violations in City Hall’s continued refusals to let LGBT activists rally in the center.

On Monday, City Hall rejected a permit for the Democratic St. Petersburg movement to rally in the city against the national bill forbidding the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors, which is about to be accepted by the State Duma in its second hearing. It was passed in the first hearing on Jan. 25. Similar local laws have already been enacted in St. Petersburg as well as in ten other regions across Russia.

As the law on public assemblies requires the administration to suggest an alternative site if the one suggested by the organizers is unavailable, the organizers of the protest that had been planned for Sunday, Feb. 24 were told to hold it in Novosyolki.

“I didn’t go there, but I checked it on the map; it’s beyond the Ring Road, and takes two hours to get to from St. Petersburg,” said Natalya Tsymbalova, an activist with Democratic St. Petersburg and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality.

“There is an aerodrome, a dump and a cemetery there. It looks like they have found the most remote location which is still officially part of the city.”

According to Tsymbalova, City Hall first dismissed five suggested sites last week, saying that other events were scheduled to be held at the first four, while large-scale road maintenance works would be held at the fifth. She said the organizers had not been given the reasons for the alleged unavailability of the ten other suggested sites, which include Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square, as well as smaller locations where other rallies are usually authorized.

Tsymbalova said the third application, containing five other suggested locations, would be submitted to City Hall shortly.

“We’re running out of time and there’s already little hope,” she said.

“They look determined not to let us go anywhere but Novosyolki.”

As the planned date of the rally approaches, chances of the rally eventually being authorized are growing slimmer.

“If they still don’t let us have a rally, we have an idea to hold a kind of flash mob by walking around all the rejected sites to see what is really happening at them on Feb. 24; to see if there are some real events taking place there or if we have been given the runaround, so we could use it in court,” Tsymbalova said.

“We’ll definitely file a complaint about this absolutely insolent and mocking rejection and we hope to win in the city court or the Supreme Court, because it’s obviously unlawful.”

On Monday, the Smolninsky District Court dismissed a complaint by LGBT rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out), which was given Novosyolki as the only available site to hold a protest against the anti-gay law ahead of its first hearing at the State Duma in December.

According to Ksenia Kirichenko, the coordinator of Vykhod’s legal aid program, a representative of City Hall described the village as the most appropriate location for such an event.

“Novosyolki is becoming a favorite tool for effectively banning LGBT rights rallies,” Kirichenko said in a news release.

In 2011, City Hall redirected the organizers of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride event to Novosyolki. Instead, an attempt to hold the rally was undertaken in the city center on Senatskaya Ploshchad, beside the Bronze Horseman monument, and resulted in arrests and fines.

According to Kirichenko, Vykhod will appeal the Vyborgsky District Court’s ruling.

Photo by Chtodelat News

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Sounds Great When You’re Dead

Russia: It might sound dodgy now, but it sounds great when you’re dead . . .

The tens of thousands of migrant workers toiling at the Olympic venues and other sites have less to celebrate, according to a 67-page report published today by Human Rights Watch. It documents multiple cases of workplace abuse and exploitation: non-payment of promised wages, 12-hour shifts with few or no days off, confiscation of travel and identity documents, and breach or withholding of employment contracts.

[…]

Other controversies surrounding the Sochi games include cases of forced eviction from future Olympic sites with little or no compensation for those moved. The World Wildlife Fund has expressed concern about construction in protected natural habitats, suggesting that the “losses to the environment are already significant.” 

A report by the opposition activists Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov in 2009 found that a big road project linking Sochi with surrounding areas cost an average of 4.8 billion rubles, or $160m, per km; world practice suggests that road construction, even in the mountains, should not cost more than $70m, they say.

Source: www.economist.com

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Our Man In The Paddy Wagon: Political Arrests in Moscow

OVD-Info Annual Report 2012

[…]

The report covers arrests in Moscow and several nearby cities between 4 December 2011, and 31 December 2012. It presents information on 5169 politically motivated arrests during 228 events, including 1312 arrests in December 2011, and 3857 in 2012.

All events monitored by OVD-Info were entirely peaceful, except for the (authorised) March of the Millions on 6 May 2012 (which ended in violent clashes with the police).

1079 people were detained at 20 events were authorised by local government. During 208 events that were either not authorised, or required no clearance, 4090 people were detained. The picket is the most common type of street activity; during 65 pickets we have registered 682 arrests. Rallies produced the greatest numbers of detainees. At 23 rallies, 1983 people were detained. The most frequent protest topic was solidarity with political prisoners (49 events resulting in 305 arrests). The most arrests were associated with general protest themes. During 44 events with anti-Putin slogans 1773 persons were detained. During 35 events against election fraud, the number of arrestees was 1750.

According to OVD-Info’s data, the driving force behind protest is citizens and civic activists rather than particular organisations. Spontaneous events, as well as events organized by various groups of activists, form the majority of events registered by OVD-Info both in terms of their number and the number of arrestees: 137 events (60% of the total) either lack organizers, or are organized by independent activist groups; such events resulted in 2300 of detentions, or 44%.

Based on witness testimony by arrestees, we draw the following conclusions on rights violations during arrest.

  • Most arrests take place without prior warning from authorities that the detainee is in violation of the law;
  • Arresting officers fail to identify themselves or name the reason for arrest;
  • The police widely practice unreasonable and unpunished violence during detention and subsequently in police precincts;
  • Journalists present at the scene on assignment are frequently detained;
  • Authorities at police stations routinely violate both the detainees’ procedural rights, as well as substantive rights, such as the right to an attorney and to timely medical care.

Using concrete examples we show how opposition rallies are forcibly dispersed (5 March 2012, and 6 May 2012).

[…]

Source: ovdinfo.org

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Russian police detain over 270 in security sweep

Sat Feb 9, 2013 11:26am EST



ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Russian police have detained 271 people, most of them from the North Caucasus and central Asia, in an investigation into involvement in “terrorist activities”, authorities in St Petersburg said on Saturday.

Russia is concerned that Islamist militants could become a greater threat outside the heavily Muslim North Caucasus region, plagued by an insurgency rooted in two post-Soviet separatist wars in the republic of Chechnya.

In a statement, the regional investigative committee in St Petersburg said that most detainees were from the North Caucasus and the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. An Egyptian and an Afghan were also detained.

The committee said they were detained “in order to check if they had legal grounds for being in St Petersburg and their possible involvement in terrorist activities.”

They were detained during an overnight raid on St Petersburg’s oldest market.

Authorities said security forces had been searching for extremist literature, weapons, drugs and documents related to a recently-launched criminal case in connection with “public justification of terrorism and incitement of hatred”.

The authorities did not say whether any of those detained were suspected of involvement in plotting or carrying out attacks.

Many market traders in Russian cities are from the North Caucasus or central Asia.

Local media said police had initially detained 700 people.

Source: www.reuters.com

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How to Get Away with Vote Rigging in Petersburg

www.mk.ru

Irina Molchanova
Vote Rigging Caused No Harm to Voters
Moskovskii Komsomolets
June 8, 2012

[Moskovskii Komsomolets in Petersburg] continues to monitor the scandalous story of blatant ballot rigging during the presidential election at Polling Station No. 1769 in the Central District [of Saint Petersburg]. Election commission members had their cover totally blown by a video posted on the web site Gosuslugi.ru. [Polling station] election commission chair [Tatyana] Ivanyuk and her deputy [Natalya] Atamanyuk clearly and audibly discuss “forging signatures” [in the video]. The sensational video reached the Smolninsky District Court, where Georgy Budny, a member of the [polling station] election commission who had discovered a “shortage” of votes, filed a suit. The court’s decision was no less sensational: the case was dismissed because, according to Judge Tatyana Matusyak, the rights of voters had not been violated. That is, by this logic, the vote rigging (the fact that it took place is not questioned) caused no harm to citizens.

“Don’t worry, guys!”

This paradoxical ruling was, to say the least, surprising and strange. For Judge Matusyak had demonstrated her resolve at the previous hearing: she had summoned the heroines of the video, Ivanyuk and Atamanyuk, to appear in court, and had requested that the video itself be brought so that she could view it right in the courtroom. For this purpose, Georgy Budny procured a video projector and, after setting it up, waited for the judge to order him to show the most contentious part of the video, which includes such incriminating remarks as “We’ll take [votes] away from Mironov, Zhirinovsky, Prokhorov. 54 percent. Uh-huh,” “We have to redo everything,” and “We have to forge all the signatures.”  But Judge Matusyak pretended not to notice the projector. It was not used at all [during the hearing].

Ivanyuk and Atamanyuk, who had been subpoenaed, did not produce themselves in court. Instead, a representative of the city election commission came [to the hearing]: he immediately declared that there was no legal point at issue because the rights of citizens had not been violated! According to him, only presidential candidates can request that the vote tally records from Polling Station Election Commission No. 1769 be invalidated, while ordinary voters whose votes were stolen as a result of vote rigging cannot do this because, allegedly, their rights were violated in no way. And Judge Matusyak fully supported his conclusion!

“This is complete nonsense,” said an outraged Georgy Budny. “It turns out you can show the whole country how votes are rigged, how the original vote tally records are torn up and buried in the bottom of a trash can (this is also visible in the video from Polling Station No. 1769 of the Central District – Editor) without any consequences for the vote riggers! After all, the rights of citizens have not been violated. But the Constitution (Article 32, Paragraph 2) clearly states that ‘citizens have the right to elect and be elected.’” But Judge Matusyak rejected [Budny’s] right to elect. After this court ruling, the words uttered by Polling Station No. 1769 chair Ivanyuk on election night (immediately after [the phrase] “forge all the signatures”) take on a frightening sense. “I have a super team!” says an overjoyed Ivanyuk, who works as a teacher at the children’s art center Transfiguration during the electoral off-season. “Don’t worry, guys. Everything will be okay. Well guys, good luck!”

25 Cases in the Courts

Smolninsky District Court has set a dangerous precedent. Now any instance of vote rigging cannot be challenged because it allegedly did not violate the rights of voters. A court hearing on the scandalous video will take place only in the event that one of the presidential candidates files a lawsuit in defense of his rights. In our case, this [would be] Mikhail Prokhorov, from whom exactly fifty votes were stolen at this polling station and given to Vladimir Putin. This was discovered the morning after the election, when Georgy Budny compared copies of vote tally records with the figures posted on the St. Petersburg Election Commission web site. A similar discrepancy in numbers was recorded at many polling stations. Now, according to Petersburg NGO For Fair Elections, around twenty-five cases of vote rigging on March 4 are being considered in the northern capital’s civil courts.

Georgy Budny has no intention of giving up. He is preparing an appeal to the City Court and has already appealed to Mikhail Prokhorov, via his web site, asking Prokhorov to send him a letter of attorney empowering him to represent Prokhorov’s interests in court. But the candidate has so far not responded.

Editor’s Note. Thanks to Comrade S. for the heads-up.

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“A violent mob of young people armed with pillows is moving towards Palace Square”

www.echo.msk.ru

Flashmob participants in Petersburg may be the first accused of violating rules on mass events
June 10, 2012 | 16:00

Participants in today’s flash mob on the Field of Mars in St. Petersburg may be the first accused of violating regulations on mass events following the tightening of laws on rallies. Local media report that seven people were arrested during the action.

Participants of the pillow fight are threatened with large fines. Eyewitnesses report that most of them were detained during the event — people were snatched from the crowd one by one. According to Fontanka.ru, detainees are being charged at a police precinct with violating regulations on demonstrations, rallies and marches. If the young people are accused of holding an unsanctioned rally, they face fines of up to 30,000 rubles [approx. 740 euros]. According to Fontanka.ru, the flash mob was attended by several hundred people. Two teams walked through the center of the northern capital to the Field of Mars, where the decisive battle took place. “Adrenaline. Positivity. Drive” was how organizers had defined the point of the event. However, police reacted to the event with less optimism. According to witnesses, law enforcement officers broadcast warning messages over the radio: “A violent mob of young people armed with pillows is moving toward Palace Square.”

Flash mob organizers emphasize that the action had no political overtones.

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

www.zaks.ru
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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