Tag Archives: political terror in Russia

January 19 Committee: Call for Antifascist Demonstration, January 19, Moscow

http://19jan.ru/

Call for Antifascist Demonstration, January 19, 2011, Moscow

January 19, 2011 will mark the second anniversary of the murders of two antifascists, lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. They were murdered in Moscow in broad daylight, shot in the head by a gunman.

The murders were brazen and demonstrative. Although from the outset various explanations were given for the murders (as a lawyer, Markelov had handled cases in Chechnya, both against the federal forces who tortured and murdered Chechen civilians, and the Chechen leadership, who are suspected of kidnapping and murdering people; he had also represented journalist Mikhail Beketov, who was nearly beaten to death in autumn 2008, in his court battle with Khimki mayor Vladimir Strelchenko), Stas and Nastya’s comrades in the antifascist movement assumed that neo-Nazis had been involved. For it had been Stanislav Markelov who had pressured law enforcement authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the murder, in the spring of 2006, of the young antifascist Alexander Riukhin. It was thanks to Markelov’s efforts that the authorities were unable to sweep this case under the rug or drop it altogether. It was thanks to his persistence that police investigators not only came up with a list of suspects, but also brought the case to court. Half of the people involved in Alexander’s murder were arrested and convicted for the crime, while the rest were placed on the federal wanted list.

Today, we have almost no doubts that law enforcement authorities have Stas and Nastya’s real murderer in custody, along with his female accomplice. Their court trial should begin soon. These two people are neo-Nazis, and one of them is in fact one of the people who was involved in the fatal attack on Alexander Riukhin but was not found by the authorities after being placed on the wanted list.

The murderers have been apprehended, their trial will soon begin. Does that mean society can breathe a sigh of relief?

No, it does not.

Dozens of less publicized racist murders take place in our country every year. The victims of these murders are Russian citizens of non-Slavic appearance as well as immigrants from former Soviet republics and former Soviet allies. S0viet-era international solidarity (whether fictitious or real) has been replaced by ethnic intolerance, by hatred towards people who are different, who speak a different language, whose eyes are differently shaped, whose hair and skin are a different color.

As a rule, we don’t remember the names of these victims of neo-Nazi terror. Often we don’t even learn their names: the press merely informs us that someone has murdered a citizen of Uzbekistan, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, an Azerbaijani, an Armenian, an immigrant from Vietnam, a refugee from Afghanistan. We do not see their faces or the faces of their grieving relatives. It as if they pass anonymous into nonexistence, inhabiting our consciousness for the several seconds it takes us to read this terrifying news on our computer screens or in the pages of a newspaper.

But in fact none of the people who have died at the hands of neo-Nazis murderers is nameless. None of these people was born in a test tube, bereft of pain, reason, love, attachments, and hope. All of these people were brought into this world by mothers. Each of them had families and friends, people whom they cared about and who cared about them.

This problem, which was long ignored both by Russian society and the Russian authorities, was raised only by the local ethnic communities of the murder victims and by young antifascists, the same people whom lawyer Stanislav Markelov had befriended and defended, the same people in whose ranks journalist Anastasia Baburova (who herself had immigrated from Simferopol, in the Crimea, to Moscow) had stood.

A year ago, on the eve of the first anniversary of Stas and Nastya’s murders, people who had known them united together in the January 19 Committee to commemorate their lives and deaths in a worthy manner, and say a decisive “no!” to neo-Nazi terror. The members of the committee belong to different parts of the Russian social movement, and they have different views of our country’s present and future. And yet on January 19, 2010, they joined around 1,500 other people in an antifascist demonstration in downtown Moscow, braving minus twenty degree weather and active interference on the part of the Moscow police. The demonstrators included both people who frequently protest against the authorities and people who might not have taken part in public protests since the perestroika era. These people were joined by folks who had never participated in a demonstration before: society had begun to recognize the problem of neo-Nazi terror, and caring people were moved to act whatever their age, social status, profession, sex, and so on. The march was joined by students and pensioners, confident middle-aged professionals and poor people who had lost hope of making it, members of the intelligentsia and young workers, all kinds of different people. What united them was a troubled conscience, an intolerance of neo-Nazi murders, and shame for their country and city, a city in which such medieval monstrosities have nearly become a norm of daily life.

As we see now, a year later, this protest was more than timely. It is possible that it happened too late. In any case, the events of December 11–15 in Moscow and other Russian cities have proven that neo-Nazism has not been cowed. Extreme right-wing ideas have struck a chord with large numbers of young people, and these masses of young people, who were badly educated and poorly brought up during the years of the Yeltsin-Putin stagnation, are willing to engage in violence. The half-forgotten, moth-balled Russian word pogrom was heard again: the crowd on Manezh Square was on the point of starting a genuine pogrom, and the crowd that gathered outside Kiev Station four days later was prepared to engage in fighting, stabbing, beating, and shooting.

During those same days, people also asked where the antifascists had been. Why hadn’t they tried to confront the raging neo-Nazis? There are several possible answers to this question. First, why don’t you try to stand in the way of a crowd like that yourself? Second, try organizing resistance to an aggressive crowd of neo-Nazis, people who think nothing about murdering and beating other people, when you have become the target of a harassment campaign (if not a witch hunt) on the part of the authorities. These were the conditions faced by Russia’s youth antifascist movement during the second half of 2010. Police searches, police dragnets at concerts, arrests, and violent interrogations by police who wanted to force testimony from them: this was what being antifa meant in 2010, not educational work amongst young people, cultural events, publishing literature, and even the martial arts and football tournaments that young antifascists had still been able to organize in 2009.

Sensing that the young antifascists were a rising force, the state has thrown the entire weight of its police apparatus against them. Meanwhile, neo-Nazis have been holding their legally sanctioned Russian Marches, convening round tables and posing for journalists in expensive hotels, and continuing to murder the defenseless – janitors, petty laborers, teenagers. While the state was unleashing its dragnet against the antifa, the neo-Nazis were trying to go respectable, to show the authorities and the business world that they could be a source of “order” during a complicated economic and political situation, that they were capable both of doing the dirty work and putting on a fashion show in well-ironed shirts and ties.

This fashion show crystallized on Manezh Square in early December. Judging by the absence of real measures to find and punish the people who organized that riot, certain high-ranking Kremlin officials found it to their liking.

Given this situation, the January 19 Committee declares the need for all people opposed to Russia’s slide into the abyss of nationalism to unite and organize solidarity actions. We live in a huge country, and we are all different. Our country is divided by contradictions, arguments, and discrepancies, and at the end of the day we aren’t obliged to like each other. But we are united on one point: Nazism, which in the twentieth century brought incalculable suffering to our country and other countries of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, is once again blazing a bloody trail. It is too late to say that it must not rise again. It is already rising again, and now we have to talk about how to stop it.

We call on all honest people, people who value the ideals of freedom and justice and just plain normal life in our country, people of different nationalities, religious confessions, convictions, and guiding principles, to join us in an antifascist demonstration in Moscow and other Russian cities.

This will not simply be a memorial action to remember the dead – Stas Markelov, Nastya Baburova, and many, many others. January 19, 2011 must become a day of determination, a day of protest, a day of struggle against the fascist threat in Russia.

Demonstrators in Moscow will gather at 7:00 p.m. on January 19, 2011, at the Timiryazev Monument (near the Nikitsky Gates at the beginning of Tverskaya Boulevard). We will have more information about the route of the demonstration and slogans in the coming days. Check for updates at the January 19 Committee web site:  http://19jan.ru.

Stop neo-Nazi terror! Save Russia from the ultra right-wing threat!

As long as we’re united we can never be defeated!

—The  January 19 Committee

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Bring the Noise! (November 14, Moscow, Chistye Prudy)

Two years ago a wave of terror against social activists and journalists rolled over Russia. Newspaper editor and activist Mikhail Beketov was severely beaten in Khimki. In Moscow, persons unknown attacked sociologist and activist Carine Clément. In Vsevolozhsk (Leningrad Region), independent trade union leader Alexei Etmanov was also attacked by unknown assailants on multiple occasions. In Yakutia, trade union activist Valentin Urusov was framed by local police on a drugs charge, tried, and sentenced to several years in prison. In response to this terror, social activists held a demonstration at Chistye Prudy in Moscow that was attended by a few hundred people.

Two years have passed. Police have still not identified and arrested the people who assaulted Beketov, Clément, and Etmanov. Valentin Urusov is still serving time in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Today we are witnessing a repeat of the events of two years ago. Environmentalist Konstantin Fetisov has been severely beaten in Khimki. Unknown assailants have attacked and severely beaten journalist Oleg Kashin. The authorities are trying to frame antifascist activists for crimes they did not commit. In Zhukovsky, thugs beat up journalist Anatoly Adamchuk.

We believe that these new tragedies are the result of apathy in our society, which two years ago was unable to force authorities to find and punish the guilty parties in those dark events. The time has come to put an end to this, for if this time the criminals are not found, the atmosphere of impunity will untie the hands of all other scumbags once and for all. Instead of being shocking exceptions, these acts of terror will become a matter of everyday practice.

At 2:00 p.m. on November 14 we ask you to come join us at Chistye Prudy in Moscow. We realize that there is no point in long speeches. It is unlikely that anyone can learn something new, something that has not been published in the Internet. And so we suggest that you bring with you anything that can make a lot of noise as a symbol of your rage and indignation.

Silence and calm is exactly the reaction aimed for by those who jail, cripple, and murder people who disagree with the existing order.

http://khimkibattle.org/

http://www.ecmo.ru/

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“In This Building They Decide Who Lives and For How Long”

1Honoring the memory of the murdered lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist and anarchist Anastasia Baburova has very quickly become a matter of low-scale partisan warfare in Russia. The police have been quick to interfere with or altogether stamp out spontaneous (i.e., “unsanctioned”) collective expressions of grief and outrage. First, there was the antifa/anarchist march through downtown Moscow, where dozens were detained even before the procession could get under way. The following day (January 21), in Petersburg, mourners initially faced a police blockade; they were finally allowed to march to the Field of Mars only after they agreed to hide their memorial photos and candles. In Krasnodar on February 2—a day of international solidarity against the wave of terror unleashed Russian activists that saw rallies and memorials from Moscow to Paris and Rome—the police ordered activists to turn off a boom box that was playing a recording of Markelov’s speech at a November 30 rally against political terror in Moscow. 

Yesterday (February 8), after having been turned down by Moscow authorities when they applied for a permit, a group of about twenty or so human rights activists marched from the Garden Ring to the site of the murders on Prechistenka. As reported by Legal Team member Nikolai Zboroshenko on his LiveJournal, seven marchers were detained by police two hours after the event. The police intended to charge them with “disobeying the lawful demands of police officials.” Unfortunately, the police (in this case) picked the wrong group of people to mess with: the Legal Team, it is safe to say, knows the Russian criminal and civil codes better than the police themselves. After a few hours in custody, the marchers were released and a police official even issued an apology for the incident.

Meanwhile, in Petersburg, a group of anarchists carried out a lightning-strike action against the city’s most prominent symbol of state terror—the so-called Big House (local FSB headquarters), on Liteiny Prospect. They affixed a memorial plaque bearing the inscription “In This Building They Decide Who Lives and For How Long” to the façade of the building, and laid a memorial wreath and flowers under the plaque. As one of them wrote in his LiveJournal:

The FSB continues the traditions of the KGB-OGPU-NKVD. Why is there no plaque in memory of the victims of political repression during the Soviet period, in memory of the victims of the Great Terror of 1937–1938, on even one building of the former KGB? Why are part of the archives of the punitive organs still closed? The authorities declare [their adherence to] democracy and freedom, but in fact they continue the traditions of terror.

Yevgeny Vyshenkov, deputy director of the Agency for Investigative Journalism (AZhUR), the Petersburg media holding company that publishes the popular Fontanka.Ru website, was detained for nearly an hour after he noticed the memorial plaque and crossed the street to take pictures of it. The traffic police officers who detained him explained that closed circuit video recordings of the building would have to be checked to verify that he wasn’t in fact the person behind the action.

More photos can be found here.

 

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Terror in Solnechnogorsk: The Beating of Yuri Grachev

At this point, we are not sure how we should title posts like the one you are about to read. Yes, you guessed it: another Russian social activist has been attacked by persons unknown and severely beaten. Unless you live in Solnechnogorsk, a town in the Moscow Region, or are a well-informed Russian social activist yourself, you have probably never heard of Yuri Grachev, editor of the oppositional newspaper Solnechnogorsk Forum and a deputy in the Solnechnogorsk City Council.

As reported on the website of the Institute for Collective Action (IKD), on February 3, this 72-year-old former officer was attacked by three men near the entrance to his house. The men pushed Grachev to the ground and began kicking him, landing most of their blows to his head. Grachev was taken to hospital, where he arrived unconscious, with an open wound on his head, a fractured nose, and a severe concussion. He regained consciousness only yesterday, and he is suffering from partial memory loss.

What did Grachev do to “deserve” this treatment? According to the IKD dispatch, Grachev is a well-known critic of the local authorities, in particular, Vladimir Nesterov, the head of the city and district of Solnechnogorsk. In 2006, Grachev was elected to the city council. There he focused on the municipal services sector, where he uncovered facts of corruption and inflated tariffs. He was also a member of the “Salvation Committee,” a coalition that was formed during the “anti-monetization” protests of 2005.

According to Elena Smirnova, another Salvation Committee member and a candidate in upcoming elections to the district council, the attack on Grachev should be linked not only to his active civic stance, but also to the ongoing election campaign. She also notes that the attack is yet one more sign of the “extremely abnormal situation” in her district and the region as a whole with regards to freedom of expression and criticism of the authorities. The  most well-known episode in this cold civil war was the savage beating of Mikhail Beketov, Khimki activist and newspaper editor, in November of last year. In this respect, it is telling that Grachev’s attackers not only beat the living daylights out of him, they also took his bag. It contained articles for the next issue of his newspaper, which was again to have focused on corruption in Solnechnogorsk.

If you follow the link to the original IKD dispatch (which we have mainly summarized here), you will find a sample letter (in Russian), addressed to Mr. Nesterov, which Grachev’s comrades have asked that anyone concerned about this case sign and fax to +7 (495) 9940537. Given the scope of the terror that has now been unleashed against oppositional social, trade union and human rights activists in Russia in the past few months, it might also be a good idea to follow the advice of Comrade Will, at the Drink-Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR website, and pen your own letter of protest and dismay to the Russian Federation consulate or embassy in your country. (You can find Will’s sample letter here.) In connection with the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, our comrades at dvizh.org have also suggested sending letters to the Russian Prosecutor General and Interior Minister. You can find the relevant addresses here. As you compose your letters or blog posts, please feel free to make liberal use of the translations and articles on this blog. God knows there have been too many of them in the past several months.

As you might guess from the sun-drenched seal of Solnechnogorsk (courtesy of IKD), reproduced at the top of this post, the name means “sunny hill” in Russian. But these are anything but sunny times in Solnechnogorsk or any other part of Russia. Despite the President’s recent clandestine tea party with Gorbachev and Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov (hailed as the beginning of a new “thaw” by the star-struck morons who pass for Kremlinologists these days), it has become clear as the sun over Solnechnogorsk that either the s0-called authorities have lost control of the so-called situation or vicious assaults like the one that Yuri Grachev was treated to the other day are, in fact, their way of dealing with the situation. In addition to having quiet little tea parties behind the high walls of the Kremlin, the authorities are also going into parallel-universe spin mode. Thus, an Interior Ministry spokesman has avowed that most killings of journalists in Russia are the result of “domestic” conflicts

Let’s be clear. Only a more or less mass protest movement within Russia can end this wave of terror. But since we have no way of making that happen, and many of our own national governments are little better (or much worse) than the criminal-capitalist junta ensconced in Russia—and thus their “condemnations” of human rights abuses in Russia sound a bit false—it is up to us to take some time away from our local cares and struggles and express solidarity with our Russian comrades any way we can. The only other alternative is to watch helplessly as the world’s largest country once again descends into the dark night of terror.

 

 

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Reporters Without Borders: Markelov/Baburova Murder May Be Linked to Attack on Beketov

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) goes to Russia to attend the Markelov funeral and gather facts surrounding the murders of Markelov and Anastasia Baburova:

Fact-finding visit : Moscow double murder may have been linked to November attack on local newspaper editor

We should add one slight correction to RSF’s fact-finding report. Yevgenia Chirikova, a comrade of Mikhail Beketov in the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, will now apparently be allowed to run in the Khimki mayoral elections, scheduled for March 1. The Moscow Region Electoral Commission has reversed an earlier decision by the municipal electoral commission, which refused to register her candidacy.

Meanwhile, the rest of Russian officialdom continues its retreat into a parallel reality that bears little resemblance to the world most everyone else inhabits:

Russian Federation Interior Ministry: In Russia, journalists are most often killed as a result of domestic conflicts

The Russian Interior Ministry has identified the cause of most murders of Russian journalists. As quoted by ITAR-TASS, according to Valery Gribankin, head of the ministry’s public relations department, mass media employees are mainly killed during domestic conflicts. According to Gribankin, the number of attacks connected to the publications and investigations of journalists is not great. “When mass media correspondents become the victims of criminals, their journalist colleagues rush to conclusions and they push to the foreground as the principal theory [of why these crimes were committed] the professional activities of the victims,” the Interior Ministry spokesman underscored.

In fact, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, during the period 1992–2008, 49 journalists were killed in Russia as a result of or in the course of their duties. This earned the country third place in the CPJ rankings. During this same period, only Iraq (136 killed) and Algeria (60 killed) were more dangerous places for journalists to work.

So why this odd official Russian disavowal of the problem, hot on the heels of the Markelov/Baburova murders? The reason is simple. Gribankin is carrying out a preventive strike in the run-up to this:

Russian human rights activists have prepared questions for UN Council

Russian human rights activists have submitted around a hundred questions for a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, which today [February 4, 2009] will hear Russia’s report.

Russian justice minister Alexander Konovalov will address council members in Geneva.

As Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial Human Rights Center, informed Interfax, he and his colleagues have seen a draft of the report and believe that it hushes up many problems.

In their reports, international human rights organizations declare that murders of politicians and journalists have become routine in Russia, and that, especially in Chechnya, an atmosphere of impunity reigns in the country.

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The Letter

In the next day or so, we will have a report on yesterday’s actions (in Moscow, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere) in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. In the meantime, if you are wondering what you can do, you might take this piece of good advice from Will, writing at the aptly (?) named Drink-Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR website:

Recommended action: send letters to Russian Embassies in your country, express indignation about political terrorism in Russia, demand the thorough investigation of the murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova and suitable punishment of the perpetrators be carried out.

Model Letter:

Mr. Ambassador, I am writing to express my concern about the Jan. 19 assassination of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and young anti-fascist journalist Anastasia Baburova in Moscow in an atmosphere of increasing nationalist violence and legal impunity for killers. Please urge your Government to take strong and effective measures to rein in fascist violence, bring the perpetrators to justice, and prevent future assaults on journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates—scandalous political crimes that seriously undermine the credibility of the Russian Federation in the international sphere. (signed, etc)

Yeah—I know. Fat chance. You could also publicise this story in whatever way you can in order to exert pressure on the Russian authorities. After all, they care about their ‘image’ if nothing else.

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Our Silence = Complicity (Moscow & Elsewhere, February 1)

Here is a translation of the leaflet that will be handed out on Sunday, February 1, at the rally against political terror in Moscow at Chistye Prudy. The original text (in Russian) can be found here and here. Feel free to use and adapt this text for your own protest memorials in other parts of the world. Russian social activists and human rights advocates (and just plain ordinary people) need to see that the rest of the world cares.

 

Stop Political Murders in Russia!

Our Silence = Acquittal of the Murderers

Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were murdered on January 19 in the center of Moscow.

Why do their murders concern each person who lives in Russia, each person who aspires to have the rights for which people like Markelov and Baburova fight? Why should we come together to share this pain and express our outrage?

Because our silence is tantamount to acquitting the people who terrorize us. It is tantamount to admitting that they are right. They terrorize us with these murders, which are the latest in a long series of violent acts against social and political activists. These terrorist acts have become the dangerously familiar backdrop to our daily lives.

After such outrageous murders, the time has come for us to decide: do we want this violence to continue in our country? Are we prepared to make our peace with the fact that criminal investigations into violent attacks against social and political activists never lead to convictions?

You lose your job. You lose your home. You lose your rights. The people who defend you are murdered. How far must this humiliation go before you stop putting up with it in silence?

People who say or think that such things are typical the world over are mistaken. Russia ranks third (after Iraq and Algeria) in numbers of murdered journalists. In every country that has gone through a similar phase in its history, people took to the streets in order to change their country.

It is enough for thousands of people to take to the streets in order to put an end to this “criminal immunity”—immunity for those people who terrorize free society. We need mass protests to reverse the direction our society is headed.

Come with your friends and family to share this pain, to cope with it, to express your outrage, to change the situation.

3:00 p.m., Sunday, February 1. The Griboedov Monument at Chistie Prudy (Moscow)

The demonstration will be attended by concerned citizens, anarchists, anti-fascists, The Institute for Collective Action, The Moscow and Mosow Region Dormitories Movement, The Council of Initiative Groups, The Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, Left Front, The Council of Coordinating Councils, Vpered Socialist Movement, Socialist Resistance, The Revolutionary Workers Party, Leftist Socialist Action, Memorial Human Rights Center, The Anti-War Club, RKP-CPSS, For Human Rights Movement, and other civic organizations.

STANISLAV MARKELOV was no ordinary lawyer. He was one of a handful of lawyers who defended workers, railroad men, evicted dormitory residents, cheated apartment co-op members, anti-fascists, refugees, and victims of police abuse. He fought for the rights of Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khimki Pravda, who was viciously beaten this past autumn for criticizing the local administration. Markelov took on the cases of social activists, whose work is invaluable for our society. Markelov helped many of them pro bono.

Stanislav represented the victims in the trial of Colonel Yuri Budanov; the Nord-Ost hostage tragedy; neofascist attacks on anti-fascists and migrants; and the massive police pogrom against the residents of Blagoveshchensk. He worked with Anna Politkovskaya, traveled to Chechnya on many occasions, wrote critical articles, and participated in environmental protest camps.

He understood that society is something you have to build yourself, and so he organized the Rule of Law Institute, which gives legal assistance to journalists, lawyers, activists, homeowners, and workers.

ANASTASIA BABUROVA was a fifth-year student in the journalism faculty at Moscow State University. She worked for Izvestia, Novaya Gazeta, and several other publications. She was an activist in the anarchist and environmental movements. She participated in many protest actions and civic initiatives, in particular, the European Social Forum in Malmö (2008). Nastya covered non-mainstream youth movements, street actions and protests, and court trials.

Stanislav was thirty-four; Nastya, twenty-five. Both of them were just beginning their work: they could have accomplished a lot more had they not been killed. They took on toughest, most important problems of our time. They were people who understood quite clearly that freedom in our society could only be fought for and won—fought for and won by citizens themselves. If citizens don’t fight for this freedom, it will become less and less, until society is strangled by totalitarianism or fascism.

SOLIDARITY IS OUR WEAPON!

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