Tag Archives: police violence in Russia

Raising Arizona

We’ve been having a hard time shaking the sick feeling in our stomach after yesterday’s post about May Day in Nizhniy Novgorod. Even where the akaby (as in A.C.A.B.) didn’t resort to such tactics, the holiday was, as in recent years, an excuse to line and encircle the boulevards, sidewalks, rooftops, and squares where the sparsely attended marches and rallies were held with thousands upon thousands of beat cops, riot cops, and God knows what other kinds of cops. The message was clear: all those who wanted to reaffirm the real values of May Day are marginals and a potential threat to public safety. May Day, after all, is really just a good excuse to celebrate the return of spring.

This, apparently, is what May Day should look like.

Los Angeles Marches Against Racist Arizona Law
by Manuel Alderete
Saturday, May. 01, 2010 at 6:29 PM

LOS ANGELES – May 1, 2010

The air was electrified by a presence not felt since the Gran Marcha of 2006. At least 100,000 people marched through Downtown in solidarity with Arizona’s victims of a new law that legalizes racial profiling. It is a law that has been denounced by President Obama, DHS Head Janet Nopalitano, the Mayor of Phoenix, the Sheriff of Pima County (Arizona), and even some Republicans who see it as draconian legislation.

Many of the protest signs carried bold statements calling the Arizona law “racist”and “Nazi”-like. There was a sense of urgency in their voices, demanding to “Boycott Arizona” and overturn Arizona’s SB 1070 law on the grounds that it was racially discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Unlike other marches where several other “niche issues” are brought into the march, this May Day march was focused like a laser: Arizona’s new state law is a modern-day version of legalized White Supremacy, smacking of the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany and Apartheid “Pass Laws” in South Africa.

As usual, the march began at Olympic and Broadway and continued north about a dozen blocks, ending near City Hall. The crowd surged with optimism as music played and ralliers chanted to Boycott Arizona and pressure President Obama to take swift action against Arizona’s legalized Apartheid.

It should also be mentioned that Los Angeles Police Department had a very light footprint at the march, with only a few officers monitoring from the sidelines. And just as well: the march was peaceful, upbeat, and a proud statement of civic resistance to “legal” fascism.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of protesters in the crowd. There was a noticeable amount of White, Chinese, and African-American protesters who all felt that they also had a reason to stand up against what SNL’s Seth Myers labeled as “dry fascism” on national TV.

This is a reminder to us all that there are non-racist Whites out there who are willing to speak out against White Supremacy. They see that this is a Human Rights issue (the humanity of Mexican and “Central American” people is being totally violated) and the human part of them also feels violated by Arizona’s law.

Walking to the march, I happened to get flagged down by a European-descent couple vacationing from Australia. They asked me to explain the march and the issues. We had an excellent conversation about the ongoing legacy of European colonialism and how that applied to “wild west” Arizona. Again, I was reminded that truth and logic will prevail in this struggle. But we also have to summon the courage to demand that our rights be recognized. Those of us Mexicans and “Central Americans” are NOT immigrants to this continent. We are Indigenous (mixed and full-blood) people of this land. Our blood is native to this soil, and has been spilled over and over on it, paying for this land many times over. We absolutely cannot remain dehumanized as we have been during the last 500 years since Europeans invaded and colonized our continent. This is OUR time for CHANGE (to borrow a phrase).



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How the Nizhniy Novgorod Police Celebrated May Day

A Nizhny Novgorod May Day with the Gestapo: The Arrest and Torture of Antifascists at the Avtozavod District Police Precinct

May First in Nizhniy Novgorod Turned into a Celebration of Genuine Police Sadism

A group of young people strolling in the Avtozavod District Park of Culture and Rest aroused the suspicions of police officers. For the OMON, the crowd of 14 people and their outward appearance (several of them were members of the antifa movement) served as an excellent excuse for arrest, torture, and the application of the most perverse “investigative techniques.” According to the detainees, the police did not even explain to them what they had been taken in for. When one of the fellows attempted to ask for the surname and ID of the officer arresting him, the police began beating him and kicking his legs into the “splits” position.

The young men were taken to the Avtozavod District police precinct, where they were subjected to torture and beatings first by OMON officers, then by officers from the Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”) who arrived at the precinct.

The detainees were first tortured by OMON officers, who forced them to sit handcuffed in a crouching position with their arms behind their heads for at least half an hour. In this position, a person’s muscles begin to cramp, but any attempt to move was punished with blows delivered through pea-jackets (so as not to leave any bruises) with billy clubs. The detainees were also forced to do push-ups while the police officers stepped on their hands. This “phys-ed lesson” was accompanied by curses and anti-Semitic, homophobic, and flagrantly fascist utterances on the part of the police.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation between one of the torture victims and his tormenter:

OMON Officer: You’re really doing them push-ups! You some kind of big athlete?

Antifascist: Yes.

OMON Officer: Maybe you’d like to go toe to toe? (laughs)

Antifascist: Let’s do it.

OMON Officer: You some kind of badass?

Antifascist: It’s better than doing push-ups.

Center “E” officers then arrived at the scene. In retrospect, all the torments administered by the OMON came to seem not so “egregious.”

One of the antifascists was beaten on the kidneys through pea-jackets. When this had no effect, he was trussed up with ropes in a contorted position and covered with pea-jackets. Two officers sat on him and held him in this pose for half an hour. Any movement on their or his part caused him excruciating pain. They demanded that he sign a piece of paper indicating his consent to cooperate with Center “E”. After two hours of interrogation, he was forced to incriminate himself by confessing on videotape that he had attempted to organize a (failed) attack on neo-Nazis.

Center “E” officers threatened to give the ne0-Nazis all their video recordings (in which the faces of the antifascists are visible) as well their home addresses and other information. In this way they attempted to blackmail the detainees into signing cooperation agreements with Center “E”.

One of the antifascists was intentionally led into a room at the same precinct where detained neo-Nazis were being processed. (The police were much more polite in their treatment of them. They did not torture them, but only copied their passport information and fingerprinted them.) The Center “E” officers addressed the antifascist by his nickname, which is known to the Nazis, and threatened to give them his address. As one officer said to him, “You do realize that if we leak your address to the boneheads they’ll kill you?”

During interrogations, Center “E” officers held open the eyelids of the detainees and threatened to extinguish their cigarette butts in their eyeballs. They also beat them on the kidneys. The entire proceedings were videotaped, and the officers warned that the detainees would have problems at work and school if they refused to cooperate.

As this was going on, the well-known Nizhniy Novgorod neo-fascist Maxim (aka Shaggy) was freely walking about the precinct house. He had already videotaped the antifascists unhindered when the police were detaining them in the park. In neo-Nazi circles, it is widely known that this person is a member of DPNI (the Movement against Illegal Immigration.) He was also a friend of Sergei “Onyx” Ionnikov, who had already been convicted and served time for inciting ethnic hatred and is now under arrest once again, this time for the murder of a young Nizhniy Novgorod man. There is evidence that Maxim aka “Shaggy” was also detained after the attack in which the young man was murdered.

Onyx and Shaggy

All this circumstantial evidence forces us to conclude that Center “E” uses DPNI members as provocateurs. The antifascists overheard one officer say, “That Oleg Ivanov fucked me over again. He promised there would be Nazi-autonomes, but they didn’t show up!” (Oleg Ivanov is the leader of DPNI’s Nizhniy Novgorod branch.)

The young people were released after five hours in custody. They were formally charged with swearing in public and sentenced to pay an administrative fine. Just imagine it: 14 antifascists gather in a public place and swear loudly! Such actions are not only deserving of indignation, but also of the most Inquisition-like tortures and punishments. This, apparently, is the “extremism” that Center “E” is charged with combatting.

After the beatings he underwent, one of the detainees was barely able to walk; he is now recovering at home. None of the detainees was able to understand  the reason for the cruel treatment they suffered.


Joint News Conference following Russian-Danish Talks. April 28, 2010, Copenhagen

QUESTION: Mr President of Russia, I know that this is a question that you’ve been asked more than once and maybe you are tired of it, but I recently saw that 66 percent of Russians believe that Mr Putin is the one who controls the country. Who actually takes decisions in Russia today?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Good question, even though it has perhaps grown somewhat tired; but every question asked at a news conference is good.

You know, Russia is controlled by the Russian people – not Medvedev, not Putin, nor anyone else. This is the first thing.


Dima and Lars

LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN: I must say that I was struck by the President’s very strong endorsement of the importance of pluralism and of respecting human rights, and I was struck by the progress that we have seen in this area. But I talked about some of the concerns that Danes have, for example, regarding the murders of journalists in Russia. I expressed my wish that these cases be investigated and that the perpetrators be prosecuted. Denmark’s position on this issue is well known.


DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Let me say a couple of words here too because, first, this topic is important and, second, it is traditional for Danish society and several other countries where such questions are of concern for many people. This is a good thing.

What can I say? First of all, as a matter of fact such topics can never poison the atmosphere because this is a normal issue to bring up. That’s the first thing.

Second: we really do always discuss this sort of questions. I told Mr Prime Minister that we are open to the idea of these topics being discussed with representatives of the Government, representatives of civil society, and representatives of nongovernmental organisations. That said, these are our problems and we will solve them on our own and independently. We don’t need any help from others on this issue – we have to deal with them ourselves.

Finally, there’s one more thing. Of course every crime committed should be investigated, but I do not think that the President or law enforcement agencies should be exclusively preoccupied with the murder of journalists or any other group that share a given professional capacity.

We should seek to eliminate all crimes of this nature because violence against the person constitutes the gravest crime in the Criminal Code of any nation, including ours.

So these issues need to be addressed without picking and choosing, and that’s what Mr Prime Minister and I talked about. I think this is useful, but again I would stress that these issues fall within the jurisdiction of the Russian state and of me as President of Russia.

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Seva Ostapov: Convicted of the Crime of Being Beaten by the Police

We have posted on the ridiculous case of Vsevolod “Seva” Ostapov on two previous occasions. Yesterday, February 17, the whole ugly story came to a (we hope, temporary) conclusion in a Moscow court. Below, you’ll find translations of some of the coverage in the non-state-controlled press. We begin, however, with a short video by Grani-TV.Ru filmed outside and inside the Moscow courthouse where Seva was handed a one-year suspended sentence for the crime of being savagely beaten by the police. Seva himself, his lawyer, his parents, and his defenders share their impressions of the trial before and after the sentencing. The video also includes brief footage of the judge reading out the verdict. (In Russian)

Vodpod videos no longer available.


The Preobrazhensky District Court in Moscow has sentenced Vsevolod Ostapov, a student at the Russian Peoples’ Friendship University (RUDN), to a one-year suspended sentence after finding him guilty of assaulting a police officer. Ostapov has announced that he will appeal the court’s decision, which “completely aped the version [of events advanced by police] investigators.”

On April 4, 2008, seven young men were severely beaten at the Sokolniki police precinct after they had been detained outside the Sokolniki metro station. Police used billy clubs and electric shockers while making the arrest, and the young men were likewise beaten at the police station. Among those beaten was RUDN student Vsevolod Ostapov. In August 2009 he was charged with assaulting a police officer. After the case was sent back to investigators four times for reinvestigation, it was sent to the Preobrazhensky District Court for trial.

The case against the police officers, which was reopened on June 28, 2008, was closed in the summer of 2009 for “lack of evidence.” Despite the testimony of medics, the young men who were beaten figured in the case only as witnesses, not as victims, and the police investigator was unable to establish the identities of the policemen who, allegedly, beat them.

On February 11, 2010, it was announced that the Directorate for Internal Security of the Moscow Chief Directorate for Internal Affairs [i.e., the police] had begun a new inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the beating of the young men at the Sokolniki precinct. On February 10, the victims were suddenly summoned to give testimony. According to [Ostapov’s] lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov, “This gives us hope that the new leadership of the Internal Affairs Directorate and the Directorate for Internal Security intend to clean out the Augean stables of lawlessness and impunity in Moscow.”

Earlier, Alexander Bastyrkin, chair of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor’s Office cancelled the official refusal to open a criminal investigation into the beating of the young men by officers at the Sokolniki police precinct. He not only ordered that the investigation be reopened, but also that those guilty of “multiple unfounded processual decisions” be subjected to disciplinary actions.

Mobile phone footage of police detaining Vsevolod Ostapov and his friends on April 4, 2008, outside the Sokolniki metro station in Moscow


Journalists and civil rights activists have been following this widely publicized case. It all began on the evening of April 4, 2008, outside the Sokolniki metro station, when two beat cops approached 18-year-old Vsevolod Ostapov and attempted to arrest him for drinking beer. The young man felt that he had done nothing wrong and attempted to convince the policemen that he had not disturbed the peace. When his friends came to Ostapov’s defense, the policemen called in reinforcements. The young people were handcuffed, driven to the precinct, and beaten. They filed charges against the policemen, but in September of last year the criminal investigation was closed.


In an interview with Radio Svoboda, Ostapov again denied any wrongdoing on his own part.

“I think that this sentence is evidence of lawlessness on the part of the court. A court like this can only be called a kangaroo court: I was convicted of a crime I did not commit.”

Vsevolod Ostapov’s lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov has already announced that they will be appealing the sentence in the time prescribed by the law.

“We believe that today’s conviction of Vsevolod Ostapov, who has been sentenced by the court to a one-year suspended sentence and one year of probation, is illegal, baseless, and unjust. The court simply ignored the testimony of the defense witnesses: twenty or so people saw what happened on April 4, 2008, between the policemen and Vsevolod Ostapov outside the Sokolniki metro station. These witnesses confirmed that it was the police officers who initiated this conflict.”

According to specialists, the low level of the work of police investigators is evident. Sergei Zamoshkin, a lawyer and director of the Anti-Abuse Center, believes that the sentence and the crime with which Ostapov was charged lend support to the argument that he is innocent.

“Courts don’t give such light sentences for acts of violence against state officials. The relevant article of the [Criminal Code] stipulates a maximum five-year sentence. This gives us grounds to say that such an insignificant punishment is irrefutable proof of an absence of guilt on the part of the defendant. This is a quite traditional practice in our legal system when neither investigators nor the court find any evidence of guilt but don’t have the strength to admit this. But we need to understand that in and of itself our legal system allows the mistakes of investigators to be covered up in this way.”

Yevgeny Chernousov believes that the Vsevolod Ostapov case sets a dangerous precedent, especially in the context of recent crimes involving police officers.

“A dangerous precedent is set when even given such a large number of witnesses the court takes the side of two beat cops. What are the residents of Russia supposed to do in this situation? How are you supposed to go out on the street if a policeman can approach you and make unlawful demands, but there are no witnesses present?! This decision unties the hands of the police.”


Outraged by the unjust conviction of Vsevolod Ostapov, today, February 17, around seventy anarchists and other members of the Movement Against Police Lawlessness, carried out an unsanctioned protest action.

At around 7:10 p.m. the demonstrators began their march on Lubyanka Square, blocking traffic and chanting “Close Sokolniki Police Precinct”; “The People United Will Never Be Divided”; “Raise High the Black Flag, the State Is the Main Enemy”; “Say No to Police Lawlessness”, and other slogans. The demonstrators carried banners that read “No to Lawlessness,” “We Demand the Closure of Sokolniki Precinct,” and “Today It’s Seva, and Tomorrow?” They lit flares and tossed smoke grenades on the road in front of them.

Approximately ten minutes later the marchers descended into the metro and traveled to the site of the sad events of April 4, 2008. After exiting Sokolniki metro station, the marchers blocked Stromynka Street for several minutes. They added the chant “All Cops Are Yevsyukovs” to their cries. Soon, however, police cars began to surround them. Around fifteen people were taken into custody, including [three] journalists.

By 11:00 p.m. all the detainees had been released. All of them (except for the three journalists) were charged with a misdemeanor under Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code (violation of rules for picketing.)

On February 14, anarchists in Petersburg carried out a theatrical Shrovetide (Maslenitsa) performance in solidarity with Seva Ostapov. See Sergey Chernov’s complete photo reportage of the action here.


Filed under film and video, protests, Russian society

January 19 Anti-Fascist Demo in Moscow: Eyewitness

Here are six eyewitness accounts of the January 19 demonstration against neo-Nazi terror in Moscow. We gratefully borrow here a few of the excellent photos taken at the event by keltea and mnog.


SOVA Center

First and most importantly, despite organizational problems and the freezing weather, this action was the most massive non-political antifascist event since 2005.

Second, the authorities achieved an acceptable compromise with the organizers (given the current practice of bans), but the actions of the police at the event provoked disorders. Those police apparently did not have orders to resort to harsh measures, however, and so the clashes did not escalate into an attempt to disperse the demonstration.

Oleg Orlov (chair, Memorial)

But at the end of Petrovsky Boulevard, at Trubnaya Square, fresh police cordons stopped the demonstrators. Here stood OMON units. Again the police called over megaphones for people to fold up their banners. Young people chanted something in reply. But there were no attempts to break through the cordon. More than that, I saw people began to fold up their banners. It was at this moment that the OMON special units drove a wedge into the crowd. They pushed people onto the ground, beat them, dragged them and detained them. And they didn’t just detain those who were holding placards or chanting something. In this way Sergei Krivenko and Alik Mnatsakanyan were detained. They tried to seize Misha Mazo, a member of Memorial who was standing next to me – possibly just for holding a portrait of one of those murdered in his hands.

In total 23 or 24 people were detained and taken to Moscow’s Tverskaya district police station. It’s possible there were other detainees (there were accounts that some had been taken to Basmanny district police station, but the accuracy of these reports is uncertain).

In my view there was no need for actions of this kind by the police. If one group of demonstrators did indeed conduct a small march without official sanction, it was exclusively along the Boulevard and in doing this they caused no interference to anyone. They were blocked in, and had no possibility to enter Trubnaya Square. No attempts were made to break out. And what’s most important, the participants began to fold up their banners and so on. Moreover, it may be that the police officers in charge viewed the actions the police were taking as a form of punishment of the demonstrators, which is absolutely against the law.

Svetlana Gannushkina (Civic Assistance; Memorial)

When they finally set foot on the boulevards, the demonstrators rushed to catch up with those who had left [the site of the first picket] ahead of them. But that was not going to happen: in the middle of the boulevard they were met by a column of gallant lads in uniform and wielding sticks, who blocked the path for each new group and “delayed” it for a time. When I found myself face to face with a policeman I asked:

“What, you’re not letting us through?”

“We’re letting people through in groups,” he explained.

The sense of his words became clear to me when I heard someone rudely shout into a megaphone:

“Let’s fold up the banners! Let’s get back on the sidewalk!”

Since the police didn’t have banners, I realized that this first-person plural command was addressed to participants of the picket. This entire absurd action, in which several hundred police officials took part, was organized so that the event wouldn’t look like a march.


What happened? Why did the police have to incite a riot? Who gave the order to break up this commemoration and turn it into bedlam?

The protesters chanted, “Fascism shall not pass!” Is this really true?  I am left with a bitter feeling in my heart.

Nikolay Oleynikov (artist, Chto Delat workgroup)

I have to record what I saw before it’s forgotten. It made a vivid impression on me because I was standing directly nearby when the incident happened. Now I’ve had a look at media accounts, and there are mistakes and inaccuracies in nearly all of them.

The incident I have in mind is the stupid provocation undertaken by two policemen. They were between thirty and forty and wearing epaulettes. I’m not sure since I didn’t get a close look, but I think they had the rank of major or something like that. That is, they weren’t rookies, but they were completely brainless. What fools they made of themselves!

The members of the [January 19 Committee] were standing under the monument to Griboyedov. One of them, whom I know personally, gave a short introduction. He said something to the effect that we were going to show a video, but at the last minute we got turned down on that request. Now the members of the committee will read aloud a brief proclamation. After this there will be a minute of silence, and then committee members will hand out candles and you can place them at the foot of the monument. Then the demonstration will be over. Thank you for coming out in such numbers.

That was all he said.

The next speaker pulled out the text of the proclamation and began reading it. This is when those two courageous provocateurs showed up and surrounded this guy who was reading the text. One of them then ripped the text from his hands. This committee member managed to say [into the megaphone], “A policeman has just ripped the text of the proclamation from my hands.” Right after this the second policeman then violently snatched the megaphone from the committee member, and both policemen grabbed him and, I think, tore the coat he was wearing. When they heard the words about the text being ripped from the speaker’s hands, people standing there really snapped. They got the speaker out of the clutches of the police and continued to advance on them. The provocateurs backed off. Then they tore down the fence at the back of the picket site and moved onto Chistoprudnyi Boulevard. This is where the crossfire began: activists threw snowballs, while the cops fired warning shots into the air.

That is what happened.

But there really were tons of decent folks at the action. It seemed like everyone there was one of our people, that we had all come together in the same place at the same time, and in minus twenty weather! It was all good.


At the twenty-minute mark of the march, when the first column had succeeded in descending the hill to Trubnaya Square, someone on the sidewalk threw smoke grenades at the activists. Smoke shrouded the streets and the activists. And so, their faces wrapped in scarves to shield them from the minus twenty temperatures and police video cameras, the 15- to 20-year-old antifascists made their way to Chistye Prudy. Here the organizers had planned to show a four-minute video clip featuring one of Markelov’s last speeches, but a few hours before the march the police had forbidden them to show the video. The activists held up photographs of the murdered lawyer and journalist, posters, and antifascist banners. Amongst the crowd Yabloko party leader Sergei Mitrokhin, former party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, Left Front coordinator Sergei Udaltsov, and Solidarity executive director Denis Bilunov gave interviews to the press. Chief Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin also came to the demonstration.

An activist who had concealed half his face beneath a scarf began the demonstration. “Stanislav Markelov took on hopeless cases his whole life. In the courts he represented the relatives of murdered antifascists, the relatives of ordinary Chechens kidnapped and murdered by federal troops. He defended people who had been beaten by the police. He defended leftist activists tried for political offenses. In short, he was not merely a lawyer, but also a civil rights activist.”

“Nastya chose journalism as a field of close social contact with people, as field where one could actively intervene in the life of the society, and that is why she entered Moscow State University. During the last year and a half of her life you could find her at [protests] at illegal construction sites and evictions, at ‘wild,’ unsanctioned demonstrations, at all the local trouble spots in Moscow. There is also nothing surprising about the fact that she took up the topic of Nazi violence.”

The antifascist’s speech could be heard only in the front rows of the crowd — the authorities had also forbidden the organizers to use an amplifier and speakers.

The member of the oppositional January 19 Committee, which organized the action, continued to list the merits of the lawyer and journalist who perished a year ago, when suddenly an arm appeared from out of the crowd and ripped the text of his speech from his hands. The activist managed to get out, “Police officers have just confiscated…,” before someone grabbed his megaphone.

The demonstrators began chanting, “Shame! Shame!” In response the police began pushing them back from the boulevard, and men in grey coats [i.e., the police] began grabbing for the speaker. That is when the demonstrators joined arms to form compact ranks and advanced on the police.

Thus began a massive fight with the police in downtown Moscow.

First the antifa and their supporters fought off the police from dragging the activist who had been leading the demonstration only a few minutes before into a police van. After throwing the metal barriers and pushing police back, the column of antifascists set off down Chistoprudnyi Boulevard. Several hundred antifascists marched ahead, their comrades pushing them forward from behind, and the police had no choice but to give way. After the column had advanced several dozen meters, the police officers got their bearings, and helmeted and baton-wielding OMON troops charged in to rescue their confused colleagues. Special weapons were brought into play: the antifascists who had become cut off from the main column choked on pepper spray that was sprayed on them either by police officers or by unknown provocateurs. (According to Lev Ponomarev, head of the movement For Human Rights, four people were detained with pepper spray canisters.)

The police began detaining the antifascists. They were pushed to the ground, dragged face down through the snow, and tossed over the barriers. Twenty-four people were detained on Chistoprudnyi Boulevard. The antifascists managed to free several comrades on their own. Another portion of the detainees were freed in exchange for a promise made the civil rights activists. Lev Ponomarev gave his word to General Vyacheslav Kozlov, deputy head of the Moscow police force, that the antifa would disperse if their comrades were released. The promise was fulfilled, and the general also kept his word: the detainees were released from the police vans and buses. The remaining detainees (thirty to forty people, according to various sources) were released later in the evening.

Ilya B. (Vpered Socialist Movement)

What happened on January 19 in Moscow is really quite important, and not only because this was probably the largest mass street action in recent years. And not only because a new culture of street politics, a culture of resistance, was born before our very eyes and with our participation. On January 19, Russian Nazis suffered a real defeat. Of course, this was not a final or decisive defeat, but it was the first serious, palpable defeat for them. This was primarily a moral defeat. Their claims to street hegemony were countered in a genuine way for the first time. Their Sieg-Heiling marches, terror, and provocations were opposed by a mass force, a force that declared its existence at the top of its lungs on January 19. And it was and is only for the sake for this supremely important political goal that it is worth making any tactical compromises and forming the broadest coalitions. Despite the absence of political symbols and slogans [as agreed on by the organizers], the spirit of the demonstration was unambiguously leftist, anti-capitalist, and anti-systemic. I think this was obvious to all who participated in the demonstration.

One other important intermediate result was the obvious tactical defeat suffered by the police, yet another testimony to the growing crisis of the entire modern Russian law enforcement system. The police’s stupid provocations, uncoordinated actions, and the ineffectiveness and absurdity of their constant attempts to interfere with the demonstration revealed their dumb anger and fear (which in this particular situation was almost groundless), but not their will to break up the demonstration in an organized way.

In Germany, for example, the police are a thousand times more effective against demonstrators. Their main idea is to divide protesters — to isolate those more inclined to violence, while showing courtesy and respect to everyone else’s right to protest as circumscribed by the law. In Russia (and January 19 was a vivid illustration of this), the police act in a directly opposite manner: they anger, radicalize, and incite to resistance those who come to protests in a peaceable frame of mind. All this is not a matter of one-off miscalculations or a lack of professionalism [on the part of the police], but evidence of the ever-deepening demotivation of the system. But it is another (large and complicated) question, what positive aspects there are to this process and what dangers it holds in store for us.

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One Sixth of a Revanchist Planet

The brilliance of revanchism in its early twenty-first century incarnation is its universal ambition to terrify the populace into self-discipline and compliance. But it does not do so equally or evenly. Some are targets of bombs and bombers, while others use security systems to fortify their houses and airports against them. Some are permanently subject to arrest, torture and rape even while innocent, while others inveigh with ontological spleen against Muslims, Jews, strikers, workers, immigrants, women. Those carrying out the bombings, rapes and torture in the name of anti-terrorism are generally the ones who get to fortify themselves, or at least they fall on the same side of the political equation, while those bombed are the ones most likely to be attacked in their homes. Whether one is revanchist or recipient has everything to do with existing power structures including especially, but by no means exclusively, class. I emphasize class here because although the contours of the revanchist city are fairly well discussed, the class aspects of more global conflicts are not, and need to be revealed. The war on terrorism is, like the revanchist city, a war of the rich against the poor, in which the poor often dies.

— Neil Smith, “Revanchist Planet: Regeneration and the Axis of Co-Evilism”

United Russia promises to hold thousands-strong demonstrations against terror in both capitals

On Wednesday, December 2, United Russia will hold thousands-strong demonstrations in Moscow and Petersburg under the slogan “Russian against terror!” the party’s press service has informed Zaks.Ru.

The events will begin at 3:00 p.m. In Moscow, the United Russians will assemble on Poklonnaya Gora, while in Petersburg they will gather on Sennaya Ploshchad. Participants in both capitals will be connected by a direct video link.

“We are profoundly outraged by the barbarous act of violence whose victims were civilians. Society has been challenged once again. Russian citizens have been victims of terror on more than one occasion. And there is no doubt that such inhuman actions should not go unpunished. Today all of Russian society must unite in the struggle with terrorism,” reads the text on the website of the party’s Moscow branch.

Smolny orders residence checks for children traveling in the metro

The Petersburg administration has amended its decree on “On the Travel Regime of Children and Young People on Municipal Public Transportation.” According to the amendment, ticket inspectors in the metro and ground transport have the right to demand documents from children and accompanying adult verifying the child’s age and place of residence.

Moscow Fans Hit by Mass Arrests on Way to Stadium

Hundreds of football fans were arrested and many reportedly beaten by the OMON special-task police in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

A large group of supporters of Spartak Football Club fans who came to St. Petersburg to see the Moscow football club play against the local team, Zenit Football Club, on the final day of the Russian Premier League season was on its way to Petrovsky stadium on the Petrograd Side when the OMON police started making large-scale arrests. The fans were detained just before the stadium, on the Tuchkov Bridge that connects Vasilyevsky Island to the Petrograd Side.

One Moscow politician protested what he called “illegal mass detentions” in an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev, while the Russian Football Fans Association (VOB) said it would gather evidence and pass it to the Interior Ministry for investigation.

YouTube video footage shows helmet-wearing camouflaged officers dragging young men and women, many of whom appear to be teenagers, out of the crowd. An officer dragging a young man is shown to knee him in the stomach, while another officer passing by hits the same young man with his baton across the chest. A girl who was carrying a drum is shown lying on the ground with policemen dragging and kicking her.

From 400 to 600 people were detained on the spot, according to various estimates. The police said 400 fans were detained and charged with disorderly conduct and the violation of public events regulations, while 24 more, including seven Zenit fans, were detained inside the stadium during and after the game and charged with disorderly conduct. The police said pepper sprays, brass knuckles, sharpened metal bars and flares were confiscated, Interfax reported.

Anton Orekh: “Our Work Is Dangerous and Harmful”

I believe that it will come to war. Until now it was an occupation, but now there will be war. If you had a look only at certain newspapers and websites for just the past week, you would have found out  the details of [lawyer Sergei] Magnitsky’s death; how three drunken cops beat a guy to death in Moscow; how in Petersburg the cops also killed a passerby and beat up a well-known artist. Also, a cop who got tired of waiting in line at a health clinic just took out his pistol and opened fire!

I didn’t read all the papers from cover to cover. I didn’t study the Internet from end to end or sit in front of the TV or radio following all the news bulletins. All these cases are just the ones that surfaced. How many people suffered from police ugliness only over the past week? And how many have suffered during the previous weeks, months, and years? Only an army occupying enemy territory would behave this way.

But now I expect a war. I don’t known whether it will be a civil war or a guerilla war. What else can you expect after the country’s head policeman gave citizens permission to hit the police? Up until now police officers were absolutely untouchable. They could do whatever they liked. Drunk or sober, acting lawfully or abusing their powers, they always turned out right. Even Yevsyukov’s situation is not so hopeless. You just wait and see: he will get out of prison while still a young man. The essentially bandit-like existence of the police is based precisely on this impunity, on the freedom to do what one wants with someone else’s life. It’s like a joke: here is a pistol, sink or swim. It is terrifying to imagine what will happen if citizens are even given the hypothetical right to give as good as they get.

[…] After Andrei Makarov proposed “liquidating” the Interior Ministry, I was on the air the following morning discussing the [State Duma] deputy’s speech with my colleagues. Listeners sent us SMSes. You cannot imagine what they were like! We couldn’t quote 90% of them [on air]: they were a steady stream of foul language and loathing! Makarov proposed reducing police personnel by half, and we asked [listeners] what to do with the other half. The most tempting proposal was to send them to the Far East to work in casinos. In the main, listeners [proposed giving laid-off police officers] the most dirty and humiliating jobs — as janitors, ditch diggers, and male prostitutes.

Fear and loathing: such are the emotions that the police arouses amongst the vast majority of our fellow citizens. I say “vast” because 96% of our listeners voted on air for the liquidation of the Interior Ministry. People believe that it would be better to have no police than to have the police we have now or a reformed police. That is, the police are a public enemy. How has it come to this, that society’s principal defenders have become its principal enemies?


We live in a country where the authorities formally have the absolute support of the populace. The country is not threatened with territorial collapse. And yet all the preconditions for a war are present: a war of the people against the police.

Alexander Cherkasov, Memorial:

Kidnappings, torture, murders, concealment of the bodies of kidnap victims: this system has been functioning in Chechnya for almost ten years now. At first, federal security forces engaged in such things. Then the authority to commit unlawful violence was transferred to the local security forces.

According to our data, from three to five thousand people fell victim to this system. Practically no one has been punished for this. There was a single, widely publicized case when a person who was guilty of kidnapping and torture (and, most likely, was also involved in the murder and disappearance of Chechens) was judged for his crimes. This was the so-called Cadet Case, in which Sergei Lapin, a police officer from Nizhnevartovsk, was sentenced to eleven years in prison.

The Cadet Case was made possible by three people: Natasha Estemirova, who worked in Grozny; Anna Politkovskaya, who published articles about it; and Stanislav Markelov, the lawyer who managed the trial in such a way that Lapin was unable to appeal the verdict. All three of them are no longer among the living. Think about it! Against thousands of kidnappings and disappearances (which in fact also involved torture and murders) one or, well, a handful of sentenced criminals. This is a system of organized impunity.

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Chto Delat in London/Alexei Penzei: “Under Suspicion”

First, an important announcement:

Dmitry Vilensky & Alexei Penzin from Chto Delat/What Is to Be Done?
Lecture: Tuesday, December 1st at 6.00 pm
Small Hall / Cinema (to the side of Loafers)
Richard Hoggart Building
Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London SE14 6NW

Organised by Marxism in Culture and the Micropolitics Research Group, Goldsmiths, and supported by the Open University.

Second, to give Londoners a taste of what they might be hearing at the December 1 lecture, we are reprinting here Alexei Penzin’s essay “Under Suspicion,” from a recent issue of our newspaper entitled Another Commons: Living/Knowledge/Action. Sadly, what Alexei wrote this past summer has only gained in relevance and timeliness since then.

Alexei Penzin: Under Suspicion

When we peruse the timeline of the “merry month of May” 2009 in Russia—a laconic chronicle of arrests, detentions of activists, intellectuals and artists, but also of protests against these actions of the authorities—many difficult questions arise. Of course, the fragmentary and brief comments given below do not claim to be a definitive diagnosis. The incomplete and sketchy quality of these comments is rather a part of the problem itself. A fuller analysis will be possible when there is a systematic understanding of the post-Soviet political experience, which for now is a thing of the future. 

1. In medias res

It is very difficult to understand what is going on in medias res, from the inside: these are events that are in the process of development, that affect us personally and assail us from all sides without allowing us to assume the stance of a dispassionate observer. These events affect many of us, sometimes in the literal, physical sense. The command “Hands against the wall!” A stunning blow to the head in a bus filled with people nabbed at a demonstration. Or, for example, the indescribably grotesque intrusion of a detachment of armed, shouting men during the showing of a Godard film at a peaceful leftist seminar. For about a year now the solidarity networks have been constantly delivering reports of new arrests, unlawful summonses for “discussions,” and beatings of activists. It is possible, however, that we should not be so focused on ourselves. The bad news concerns not only the minority of activists and intellectuals. The news also comes from those who are not involved in politics, education or research—from “average citizens.” The very texture of post-Soviet society in recent years has been steeped in anonymous, free-floating violence committed by the “forces of law and order.” Violence against civilians has become a kind of collateral damage, an excess of the existing system of political management. Sometimes this anonymous violence takes on personal and transgressive features. For example, in the person of a police officer who shoots at customers in a supermarket with the cold-bloodedness of a character in a computer game. Continue reading

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Solidarity with Seva Ostapov!

July 18 is a Global Action Day in support of Russian student Seva Ostapov!

No love is lost between the Russian population and the cops: facts of police terror are brought to light with disturbing frequency.

SevaslistomOn April 4, 2008, Moscow cops beat up and arrested seven young men near Sokolniki metro station in Moscow. The reason for this was the attempt made by these kids to prevent the illegal arrest of their 19-year old friend Vsevolod “Seva” Ostapov. Once at the police station (Sokolniki Precinct), the “law enforcers” decided to show the “smartasses” the error of their ways: for several hours, the cops viciously beat up and tortured our friends with tasers (electroshockers). As they did this, the cops made lots of chauvinistic and racist remarks. (It is common knowledge that many Russian cops are very supportive of neo-Nazi ideas.)

Moscow anarchists reacted with a campaign that succeeded in attracting public and media attention. The top police brass was forced to publicly comment on the issue. The cops decided to go on the offensive. They charged six of the young people with a minor offense—participation in a public brawl—a brilliant move to cover up the the wounds the cops inflicted on their bodies. The seventh young person involved, Seva Ostapov, has been charged with a felony—assaulting a police officer. Seva faces a long prison sentence (Article 318.1 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code stipulates a maximum five-year sentence) if convicted, although the CCTV records and numerous witnesses indicate that the charge is completely fabricated.

Each and every part of the state machine of repression has acted in concert in this case. Medical personnel at various hospitals refused to examine and document the injuries the detainees had suffered while in police custody. (The Russian healthcare system is subservient to the state.) The prosecutor’s office ignores eyewitness testimonies submitted by Seva’s friends, while fake “accidental witnesses of the assault on the police officers” have started to appear out of nowhere; by some quirk of fate, they turn out to be cops as well. As events unfold, the criminal case opened against the police department for the illegal arrest and torture of Seva and his friends has stalled in spite of the huge amounts of evidence. The prosecutor “loses” different documents regarding the case or sometimes he just “forgets” to make the next logical step in the investigation.  This is typical for Russia as well.

It is obvious that the state takes this issue very seriously: either Seva goes to prison and the torturers in police uniform are thus absolved of all charges, or the state admits that the ranks of its police officers—“sworn to serve and protect”—include numerous torturers and fascists.

seva0We ask you to support the Global Action Day of solidarity with Seva Ostapov on July 18. Carry out solidarity actions near the Russian embassy or consulate in your country (or any other Russian office if your town is lucky enough to have no Russian embassies in the vicinity)!

More information in English:



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