Tag Archives: Russian election protests

Free Filipp Kostenko!

Filipp Kostenko


December 9, 2011

On December 6, 2011, Filipp Kostenko, a social activist and an employee of the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, was arrested during the ongoing mass protests in Saint Petersburg. Currently in custody in the pre-trial detention facility at Zakharievskaya, 6, Kostenko has gone on hunger strike to protest his sentence.

Earlier, on November 25, Kostenko was arrested during a one-person picket at the Consulate of the Republic of Belarus to demand the release of the Belarusian human rights activist Ales Belyatsky and other political prisoners in Belarus. Although  he observed all the legal requirements for such a picket, he was then likewise charged with disobeying police. The case, however, never came to trial, because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.

On December 7, Judge Kuznetsov of the 203rd Judicial Precinct gave Kostenko the maximum possible sentence – fifteen days of administrative arrest, which by law should be applied only in “exceptional cases.” As stated in the court’s decision, Kostenko was convicted of disobeying police, namely, for refusing “to obey an order to cease participating in a demonstration.” Sentencing Kostenko to the maximum term of the harshest possible punishment [in this case] is clearly disproportionate [to his alleged crime]. It is obviously a repressive measure aimed at preventing the activist and civil rights advocate from exercising his right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

It is unreasonable to detain people who peacefully protest violations during elections. The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center deems it unacceptable and contrary to international norms to prosecute anyone exercising their right to peaceful assembly. The unhindered exercise of this right is particularly important in tandem with the right to free elections in a democratic society: it is a condition for guaranteeing free expression and an effective tool for protecting the right of citizens to free elections in the event of violations of this right. As Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg has noted in light of the current situation, “Freedom of assembly is extremely important, especially after an election, and this right is protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. Arresting people and sentencing them to prison only because they took part in demonstrations contravenes the European Convention. “

In its December 5 statement, Amnesty International likewise recognized all those people arrested and sentenced during the current peaceful protests as prisoners of conscience and demanded their immediate release. (“They are prisoners of conscience and they must be released immediately.”)

In addition to the unreasonable and disproportionate punishment for what was essentially a peaceful action, the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center also expresses grave concern about conditions in the detention facility at Zakharievskaya, 6. Earlier, in a case that the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center brought before the European Court of Human Rights, the conditions of detention at this facility were recognized by the court as inhumane and in violation of international norms.

Filipp Kostenko has gone on hunger strike to protest what he considers an unjust sentence and demand the release of all those arrested during the current peaceful demonstrations. One other detainee, Viktor Demyanenko, sentenced to ten days’ administrative arrest on a similar charge, has joined the hunger strike.

Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center demands that the authorities cease persecuting people for the peaceful exercise of their rights, respect international standards guaranteeing the right to freedom of assembly and fair elections, and free wrongfully detained and convicted persons, including social activist and civil rights advocate Filipp Kostenko.

Photo courtesy of Free Voina.


Filed under activism, political repression, protests, Russian society

Rahutused St Peterburis (Protests in Saint Petersburg)

You can’t see this stuff on Russian TV, but Estonian TV was on the scene at the post-elections protest outside Gostiny Dvor in Petersburg on December 8, 2011:

Thanks to Sergey Chernov for the heads-up.

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Sign of the Times? (RIA Novosti Guide to Responsible Protesting)

A surprisingly helpful guide (“Responsibilities of participants of mass actions: how to peaceably express your civic stance and not come into conflict with the police”) for Russian anti-election fraud protesters — produced by RIA Novosti, a state-owned news agency! What are things coming to?

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The Politicization of Young Russians

Nevsky Prospekt, Petersburg. December 7, 2011. Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov

Triumfalnaya Square, Moscow. December 6, 2011. Video courtesy of Grani.Tv

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Russian Socialist Movement: “Let the Streets Speak!”


The most boring election campaign in the past twenty years has ended with a crushing moral defeat for the establishment. It hardly matters whether United Russia will gain a super-majority in the Duma or has to share seats with LDPR or A Just Russia. What matters is that, despite all the invocations of stability, all the clever scenarios and vote rigging, the Russian people have loudly declared their right to change. The elections have powerfully demonstrated a lack of confidence in the entire political system as embodied by the “party of swindlers and thieves.” Amidst the suffocating atmosphere of stagnation and hopelessness something new can be sensed in the air. Is it a quickly passing Thaw? An Arab Spring? A February Revolution?

From now on, we are faced with an old regime that is unpopular and illegitimate in the eyes of the active part of society, a regime that will inevitably attempt to govern in the old way even as this becomes more and more problematic. On the other hand, we see a huge mass of people who hate the party of swindlers and thieves. What is more, these people publicly humiliated the regime on December 4, only to be cruelly deceived once again. Finally, we have an utterly false and impotent “systemic” opposition, an opposition that people voted for according to the “anyone but them” principle, and whose electoral success was bad news even for itself. As part of the establishment, the systemic parties will undoubtedly seek to form blocs and coalitions with United Russia. The only question is whether they will be able to settle on a price. Echoing Dmitry Medvedev, Sergei Neverov, secretary of the United Russia General Council Presidium, has already said that the party is counting on forming strategic alliances with LDPR and A Just Russia. “This will be […] a parliament in which there is serious discussion,” he said. “The opposition are not enemies. The opposition are people who have an alternative opinion, a different opinion. And if this opinion coincides [with ours] on certain questions, then they’re welcome! We’re ready to cooperate,” said Andrei Vorobyov, chair of United Russia’s central executive committee. He opened wide his liberal arms even as police on the streets of Moscow and Petersburg were beating up demonstrators protesting election fraud.

“Politics is the art of compromise, an art that allows one to find a balance between different political groups,” Nikolai Levichev, the chair of A Just Russia, diplomatically declared a few hours after the vote. “Vladimir Putin has spoken of the need to overcome social inequality. We agree with this, but everything depends on what paths are proposed. If these paths don’t suit us, then there will be no coalition.” Hence, the head of the “party of swindlers and thieves” is pursuing the same good ends as A Just Russia, only the paths taken are a bit different. Well, well, we’ll see what happens next.

Igor Lebedev, leader of the LDPR faction in the Duma, is even more straightforward, engaging in outright bargaining, without any ideological embellishments. “We are ready for conversation and reasonable dialogue, but only as equal partners, not as stooges.”

It is obvious that, with such an “opposition,” working people should not expect any progressive changes in their lives. There has never been and never will be anything in the histories of these parties, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, other than treachery. The handful of trade unionists and social activists who have made it into the Duma and the regional parliaments on the Communist and Just Russia lists will be unable to affect the essence of their policies. The most they can do is to lend support as they are able to the extra-parliamentary movement, as such people as Oleg Shein, Oleg Smolin, and several others have done in past Dumas. At a time when genuine trade unions and civic movements are weak, and pressure from the repressive security forces will grow, this is important albeit secondary.

Now the streets must become the arena of political struggle. Russia will either take its place in the global anti-capitalist movement, or again sink into apathy and stagnation. Voting for “anyone but them” should be replaced by the struggle for clearly perceived social interests. New, independent political forces must replace the old corrupt parties. If the left wants to be such a force, it must become a party of action. We must confront nationalist populism, which derives political capital from anti-immigrant rhetoric, with the simple, clear idea of the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the parasitic bureaucracy inseparable from it, against the rich bastards who have commissioned the hideous farce known as Russian politics!

The Russian Socialist Movement’s appeal: “Everyone into the streets! Russia for working people!”

These should be your demands:

Cancel the results of the fake elections!

An end to repression: the police and the army on the side of the people!

The president and government must resign!

No coalitions and agreements between opposition parties and United Russia!

Free elections involving all parties and social movements!

Freedom of rallies, marches and strikes!

Free education and healthcare: suspend Federal Law No. 83 and other anti-social laws!

Nationalization of banks, oil and gas resources!

Progressive taxation: let the rich pay for their crisis!

Price controls on consumer goods!

Worker control in the workplace: worker participation in management and distribution of profits!

Revolution – Democracy – Socialism!

December 6, 2011 

Russian Socialist Movement


Filed under leftist movements, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

Post-Election Police Crackdown on Petersburg Protesters

The St. Petersburg Times
December 7, 2011
Police Crack Down on Protesters on Nevsky Prospekt

By Sergey Chernov

Police detained dozens who peacefully protested against widespread violations in the State Duma elections. These violations allegedly increased the percentage of votes for United Russia, while reducing vote totals for rival parties. This tendency was also noted in St. Petersburg.

An estimated 1,000 came to protest the violations at Gostiny Dvor Metro Station on Nevsky Prospekt in central St. Petersburg, Monday — three times as many protesters as on election evening, Sunday.

The Monday protest was not organized by any political group and mainly consisted of people who had not previously participated in protest rallies. They organized the protest via the Russian social network Vkontakte (the country’s equivalent of Facebook), as soon as reports about large-scale ballot-stuffing, expulsion of observers and rigging of the the results started to appear.

“It was mostly students from various universities, active Internet users,” Maxim Tomchin, one of the organizers said.

Tomchin said the protesters came together via several groups on Vkontakte which were launched by St. Petersburg residents for the elections. He was an administrator of one of the groups.

“Originally, we were urging people to vote for any party except United Russia, but as news about violations started to come on Sunday, three groups were formed to protest them,” he said.

“We had no idea what an unauthorized rally was and how the authorities would react to that.”

Police reacted by surging into the crowd and arresting people, as they did during the Sunday rally that featured parties not allowed to participate in elections.

Police said that about 150 were arrested (about 120 near Gostiny Dvor and about 30 near Moscow Railway Station). Human rights activists said that for most of them it was the first time they had been arrested and they did not know how to behave in a police precinct or what their rights were.

According to Tomchin, after the rally, participants split into three large groups.

The largest group chose to act by holding authorized events, while a smaller group — which included participants who had been detained on Monday — became more radical and decided to continue protesting the following day. The smallest group “got scared and decided not to participate at all.”

Tomchin said he submitted an application to City Hall Tuesday to hold a meeting on Dec. 18. The Other Russia, Yabloko Democratic Party, the People’s Freedom Party (Parnas) and Solidarity Democratic Movement have backed the rally. According to a Russian law introduced by Putin, authorities must be warned about any planned rally 15 days in advance.

Tomchin said his group, while remaining non-partisan, will demand the election results be revised and is preparing to counter these kind of violations at the upcoming presidential elections.

He said the upcoming rally’s Vkontakte group was growing quickly, with one or two people joining every minute.

Maxim Reznik, local chair of Yabloko, said his party will meet A Just Russia and the Communist Party (KPRF) to discuss possible joint protests on Wednesday.

He compared the struggle of observers against violations to the Battle of Stalingrad, a fiercely fought WWII battle. “We will act in every way to dispute the results and organize a massive rally,” Reznik said. “It’s important to get a lot of people together.”

On Sunday, 300 to 400 protesters gathered at the same site near Gostiny Dvor as elections were taking place.

These protesters argued that the elections were not legal because the authorities repeatedly refused to register several oppositional parties including The Other Russia, Parnas, and the Russian United Labor Front (ROT Front).

“Your elections are a farce” was one of the slogans. Some protesters held an image of Putin’s face with a line struck through it. According to police, 65 people were arrested on Sunday and charged with both failure to follow police orders and violating the rules of assembly. Activists said that more than 90 were arrested.

On Monday, three Other Russia activists, Andrei Milyuk, Sergei Chepiga and Sergei Chekunov, were sentenced to three days each in custody.

A number of activists complained about police beatings. Olga Kurnosova, the local chair of The United Civil Front (OGF), who was arrested on Sunday, said Tuesday she had a suspected concussion and many bruises.

Other Russia activist Igor Chepkasov said policemen beat detained protesters in a bus. During the beatings they broke a window in the bus in which he was being held.

Other Russia’s local chair Andrei Dmitriyev sees the Monday rally as a good sign. He said his party’s activists were not aware of the event in advance and headed there when they heard the news.

“On Sunday, it was as expected; a group of opposition activists and concerned citizens came to protest at Gostiny Dvor or Triumfalnaya Ploshchad [in Moscow] and got detained by the police,” Dmitriyev said.

“We thought it would be a one-time thing and that there would not be massive people’s protests. Ten thousand people came to the rally in Moscow and a thousand came to Gostiny Dvor. This is very serious, especially because they are not political activists, but ordinary people who are upset by the elections and who are not prepared to tolerate this.

“People feel deceived, they feel that their victory has been stolen, they feel injustice. They’ve started to realize that the question of power can’t be solved through elections. This is a very bad sign for the authorities.”

On Tuesday, protests at Gostiny Dvor continued. Police started detaining protesters at around 7 p.m.

Editor’s Note. According to official sources, 247 people were detained during Tuesday evening’s protests in downtown Petersburg.

Photo: http://vkontakte.ru/beliy_volk

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