Tag Archives: repression of student activists

The United Russia Guide to Winning Hearts and Minds. Strategy 4: Arrest “Unruly” Students at Russia’s Premier University

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http://www.rosbalt.ru/moscow/2011/11/19/914449.html

Students planning to protest UR campaign propaganda arrested near Moscow State University

Moscow, November 19. Fifteen students, grad students and alumni were arrested on the campus of Moscow State University this afternoon after the protest action “Students against the Use of Moscow State in the United Russian Election Campaign.” Uniformed police and plainclothes officers, who refused to identify themselves, made the arrests in a quite brutal manner: eyewitnesses told Rosbalt that they grabbed the students, dragged them across the ground and beat them.

From one p.m. to two p.m. today, during ceremonies marking the 300th anniversary of Mikhail Lomonosov’s birth, Moscow State students and teachers had planned to hold a picket outside the Universitet metro station to express their disagreeme3nt with the use of  the university’s name by members of the university administration in pre-election campaigning for United Russia. However, despite established practice, in this case at the last minute it transpired that the prefecture of the Western Administrative District had not authorized the protest, MSU employees noted. Despite assurances by telephone that everything was in order, when protest organizers received a written response [from the prefecture] on Friday, they learned that [the authorities] proposed moving the picketing site to the Taras Shevchenko Embankment [a “ghetto” that Moscow authorities often send protesters to keep away from public view].

Disagreeing with the prefecture’s decision, students decided to gather outside Universitet metro station to discuss the situation and hold a series of one-person pickets, which by law do not require prior approval by the authorities. The behavior of the police officers [at the metro station] and conversation with commanding officers made it clear that they had been ordered to repress any action on the part of activists, including one-person pickets. In particular, the police warned that if the [protesters] moved off together in the same direction, this would be regarded as a demonstration and arrests would begin.

The protesters decided not to give the police reason to arrest them and went off to have an informal discussion of the situation, without posters and slogans, in the park at the Eternal Flame, which is located opposite Academic Building No. 1.

During their discussion of self-government at the university, police officers, who did not identify themselves, began forcibly pulling students and graduate students from the group and arresting them for [holding] an “unsanctioned rally.” According to our sources, police colonel Kostin supervised the arrests. The students were then taken to Ramenki police station in police cars U7120, U7160, and U7134.

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MGU Is No Place for Discussion
The Moscow Times
24 October 2011
By Victor Davidoff

The dramatic events that took place on Thursday in Libya will ensure that this date will be remembered in history. An important event took place in Russia on that day, too, and while although it was far less dramatic than the death of Moammar Gadhafi, it was rich with symbolism.

On Thursday, President Medvedev met with students and representatives of youth organization at the journalism department of Moscow State University.

The choice of venue and conditions of the meeting were a vivid indicator of the current status of freedom of speech in the country at present and what it is likely to be under a continuation of the ruling tandem.

First, the event wasn’t announced anywhere and was planned in absolute secrecy. The students at the journalism department didn’t know about it, and even the dean, Yelena Vartanova, was informed about the president’s visit only the day before. She was just asked to make sure that two auditoriums were free — one for the meeting and the other for a buffet.

On the morning of the meeting, hungry students drooled over a huge amount of food and drink that was brought in for the buffet — hungry in the literal sense because the Federal Guard Service, which provides security for the president, closed the departmental cafeteria as a security precaution.

The security detail closed off the entire building and carried out its own special face control, not letting in students whose names were on their blacklist. Some faculty members were barred from the building, too.

But that was a minor inconvenience, as one student, D-lindele, wrote on his LiveJournal blog, : “That was nothing compared with what happened next. The journalism students were shocked to learn that the ‘students’ at the meeting with the president would really be dozens of activists from Nashi and other similar organizations.”

But the author was mistaken. In fact, there were about 30 students from the journalism department — about one-tenth of the audience. Only the most trustworthy students were invited, including the attractive girls whose half-nude photographs graced a calendar made for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s birthday last year. Other less-trusted journalism students were only allowed to greet the president when he entered the hall and went up the stairs.

In a video on YouTube showing the meet-and-greet episode, you can see an unidentified student about a meter from Medvedev holding up a hand-made sign the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Then security guards close in on him, and he disappears behind their backs.

That wasn’t the only protest that the president chose to ignore. Student Igor_malinin wrote on his LiveJournal blog: “Just then a group of enterprising guys held up oppositional signs, like ‘Press isn’t from the word oppress’ and ‘Why do you tweet while Khodorkovsky rots in jail?’ Right now they’ve been detained by the Federal Guard Service and are being held in the auditorium.’

Three female students were detained for protesting by the entrance to the building and spent several hours in a police precinct. Altogether, seven journalism students were detained. Typically, the detention of protesters was not mentioned in any of the television news reports.

Budur, a blogger from the journalism department, wrote: “Citizen Medvedev humiliated and insulted the dignity of seven members of our community. The seven did not organize a rally or do anything against the law or against university bylaws. They were just doing their civic duty. This is the first time since the 1930s that people were arrested right on the campus of the university.”

After the meeting, one of the journalists managed to ask Medvedev what happened to the students who had been detained. “Is someone being detained some place?” Medvedev asked. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know.

And that evening, Medvedev sent out a cheery tweet on Twitter: “The meeting at the journalism department was good. I see that everyone had a good time. Thanks for the comments. Sweet dreams.”

Perhaps Medvedev actually thinks that a staged event with a paramilitary security operation during which protesters were arrested in his presence was a “good meeting.” And perhaps he thinks that it was held with full respect for the law and everyone’s civil rights. Or perhaps he thinks that the most important aspect of the event was that everyone had a good time.

If so, it shows how little he understands the country that he is ruling, where an increasing number of people have a completely different notion of civil rights than Medvedev and his security advisers. And eventually they will find a way to make the authorities play by their rules in politics.

In the meantime, sweet dreams, Mr. President.

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Olga Kuzmenko and Vera Kichanova, two of the Moscow State University students detained before President Medvedev’s speech in October, talk about the experience with MK-TV:

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Middlesex U: The “Crime” of Protest

This just in from Infinite Thought:

Four students were suspended on Friday 21 May: Ali Alizadeh, Nicola Goodchild, Johann Hoiby, and Hoi Yen Voong. The suspension blocks them ‘from entering any part of the University’s premises without written permission’ from management. The students have been informed by the Head of Student Services Fiona Fall (F.Fall@mdx.ac.uk) that ‘we are writing to only a few of you so far but will write to others similarly involved when they can be identified.’

Three members of staff were also suspended on Friday afternoon: Professors Peter Osborne (head of the CRMEP) and Peter Hallward (programme leader for the Middlesex Philosophy MA programmes), and senior lecturer Dr. Christian Kerslake (who learned about his suspension over the weekend), pending investigation into their involvement in the occupations. This means that half of the Philosophy staff have now been suspended from duty.

There are a number of striking things about the staff suspension notices. First of all, staff have been suspended in anticipation of (rather than following) ‘an investigation surrounding the occupations’ at Trent Park. The notices do not refer to any specific allegation of wrong-doing, and do not indicate a timetable for the investigation.

Second, the notices do not formulate a ‘proportionate’ response to the circumstances. For instance, they do not simply prevent staff from communicating with colleagues and students about further occupations or ‘disruption’ at Middlesex. Instead, they command staff to ‘refrain from contacting in any way any University employee, student or any University contractor or supplier without the prior agreement of the Dean or a member of Executive.’ It is hard to see how this command respects basic rights of association and contact. In order now to conduct a routine supervisory meeting with a research student, for instance, staff must now request permission from their Dean and provide him with details of when any supervisory meetings will take place, so that (as a recent management instruction puts it) ‘arrangements can be made for their attendance at the University.’

Third, the notices indicate that ‘the suspension is not a disciplinary penalty in itself and does not imply any decision about the merits of the case’. They instruct staff to continue to ‘ carry out all reasonable duties specified by the University in relation to the delivery of your role’ (in other words, they simultaneously suspend us from duty and instruct us to carry on working more or less as normal). Osborne and Hallward, however, have now specifically been denied permission to attend a regular once-a-term meeting of the University-wide Professors Group, scheduled for Friday 28 May. This is a group constituted and organised by academic (as distinct from managerial) Professors themselves several years ago, originally in opposition to a previous round of management cuts. The great majority of the University’s academic professors already signed a strongly-worded letter condemning the closure of Philosophy, and they are unlikely to appreciate this extraordinary and unprecedented managerial intervention in the operations of their group.

Savemdxphil@gmail.com has already received scores of outraged letters about the suspensions from academics all over the world. We will post a few more of these later today.

The implications of these suspensions extend far beyond the fate of the Philosophy programmes at Middlesex. Students and staff have been suspended for the ‘crime’ of campaigning to save their own courses and jobs. Since it is hard to imagine a more innocuous occasion for student protest than a library sit-in designed to mount a symbolic defence of endangered books and programmes, it is hard to escape the conclusion that what is at stake here is nothing less than the right to protest itself – or at least, the right to protest in ways that might have some actual impact. When he was informed of his suspension shortly after the sit-in ended on Friday, one of the students was told by management that he was indeed entitled to protest the closure of his programme by ordinary, ‘legitimate’ means, e.g. by writing letters, organising petitions, and so on. But he was also told that when thousands of people sign a petition or ‘push a button on Facebook’, this doesn’t indicate a meaningful expression of support.

It looks, then, as if the Campaign will have to continue to provide alternative opportunities for such expression. The issues at stake in this struggle are matters of urgent and far-reaching principle. If you oppose the closures and their implications for humanities teaching, if you oppose the suspensions and their implications for academic freedom and the rights of association and protest, then please attend a rally at on Thursday 27 May, from 4pm onwards, at Middlesex University’s Hendon campus.


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Solidarity with Priama Dija (Kyiv)

[Adapted from the solidarity appeal originally published at lib.com]

Dear Comrades!

We are an independent student union, Priama Dija (“Direct Action”) and we ask for your support.

The case is that for over the last six months, the union has been under unprecedented pressure. Everything started with our series of successful actions (together with other youth organizations) against the establishment of fees for previously free services in the universities, against cutting funds for scholars and against plans to suspend scholarships for students who received even a single grade of “3” (C). Ever since then, the intelligence services, together with the administration of the National Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev, have been carrying out a campaign of pressure against the union’s activists. All available measures are used against them, including intimidation and repression.

During this period:

1) pressure has been used against activists by threatening to sack their parents from work;
2) activists were expelled from the university;
3) intimidation and face-to-face “talks” have been held with anyone who somehow helped us;
4) the intelligence services have engaged in a deterrence campaign against us.

It is worth mentioning that a number of administrators in private conversations made it absolutely clear that they were being “pressured from above.” Some officials have directly called it a “war.” There are those, however, who won’t stop at anything just to keep their positions. Thus, the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Mr. A.E. Konverskii, stated outright  that he would “crush anyone who would challenge his career into the pavement.” Soon afterwards, even such an insignificant project as the film club in the faculty was closed for no particular reason and without explanation.

The administration also distinguished itself by instructing security guards to prohibit activists from entering the Red (main) corpus of the university, regardless of the legitimate right of free entry for union members.

In general, an atmosphere of total control has been established in “the best university in the country.” Any signs of dissatisfaction are rooted out immediately. Thus the very flickering of a protest against a rise in dormitory fees was brutally suppressed, and the students who initiated this campaign were expelled.

The present state of affairs is connected to an appalling fact. The Kiev National University is virtually run by Vice-Rector V.A. Bugrov, who has also been, according to our information, an SBU officer since 1989. (The SBU, the Ukrainian Security Service, was previously known as the KGB.)

“Vladimir Bugrov: Have a ‘Prophylactic Talk’ with Your Wife!”

We should also mention that the former chief of the SBU, Volodymyr Nalyvaichenko, swore that he had recalled all the agents from institutions of higher education during the “de-KGBization” campaign.

The facts enumerated above constitue a disgraceful precedent for both the University and Ukraine as a whole. The University should stand for the free development of the individual and not for the totalitarian production of security service agents.

We call for your solidarity!

We ask you to send letters of protest to the Ukraine minister of education, the Ukraine parliament’s human rights ombudsman, and the administration of Kyiv University. You may use the following sample letter:

We ask you to intervene in the situation with the student union Priama Dija (“Direct Action”). According to the information we have received, for over six months now pressure has being used against the union by the administration of the Kyiv National University and the SBU (Ukraine Security Service).

Regardless of the official status of the union, representatives of the SBU and the University have taken repressive actions against activists and intimidated all those who are somehow connected to the union. These actions violate the Ukraine  law “On Unions, Their Rights and Guarantees for Activity.” They also violate the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Article 170).

We appeal to you to take action in this situation.

Please mail, fax or telephone your protests to the following officials:

Minister Dmytro Volodymyrovych Tabachnyk
Ukraine Ministry of Education and Science
10, Prospekt Pobedy
01135 Kyiv, Ukraine
Telephone: +380 (44) 486-24-42
E-mail: ministry@mon.gov.ua
Fax: +380 (44) 236-10-49

Rector Leonid Vasiliovich Hubersky
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
64, Volodymyrs’ka St.
01601 Kyiv, Ukraine
E-mail: stationery@univ.kiev.ua
Fax: +380 (44) 239-33-88

Nina Ivanivna Karpachova
Ukraine Parliament Ombudsman for Human Rights
21/8, Instytutska St.
01008 Kyiv, Ukraine
Telephone: +380 (44) 253-22-03
E-mail: omb@ombudsman.gov.ua

For more information or to tell us about your solidarity actions (including letters), write to: priamadija@gmail.com

Kyiv: Priama Dija Pickets SBU Headquarters

On April 21, the Priama Dija student union picketed the headquarters of the Ukraine Security Service (SBU). Around fifty union activists demanded an end to repressions against students, their parents, and their comrades.

The young people submitted “case files” with information about themselves. They announced that they had decided to make the work of SBU agents easier by submitting a detailed dossier on each activist.

Union activists claim that the SBU agents have engaged in a campaign of coercion against Priama Dija, its members, their parents, and mere sympathizers for over six months. This campaign has been especially intense in the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, where the administration has joined with SBU agents in a campaign against the student union, openly calling it a “war.”

Union activists say that the most underhanded methods have been employed against them. Aside from threatening and expelling students themselves, the university administration has practically taken parents hostage by promising to cause them “problems” and threatening that they will be fired from their jobs.

The protesters demanded an end to all repressions against union activists, their families, and friends, and an internal investigation into the collaboration of SBU agents with the administration of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in its repression of the student union.

Actions in support of Priama Dija also took place in Germany, Poland, Portugal, Russia, and a number of other Ukrainian cities. Earlier, the International Workers Association, trade union organizations in Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Germany, and Venezuela, the International Youth Human Rights Movement, Ukrainian civil rights activists, and a number of Ukrainian student and youth organizations expressed their support for Priama Dija.

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On April 22, members of the Committee for Academic Solidarity and the Street University held a series of solo pickets in support of Priama Dija outside the Ukrainian Consulate in Saint Petersburg.

On April 21, two solidarity rallies took place outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow. These were organized, respectively, by Autonomous Action, with support from the Vpered Socialist Movement, Left Front, and the All-Russian Confederation of Labor (VKT); and by the Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists (KRAS).

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