Tag Archives: Yuri Luzhkov

How can you help fight anti-gay laws in Russia? (international campaign)

"Deputies, start solving real problems!"

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www.gayrussia.eu

St. Petersburg:

How can you help fight anti-gay laws in Russia?

Join the international campaign

10,000 letters to the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations

Many of you have been asking us how you can help to fight the bill in the most effective way. This press release aims to answer your questions as well as shed more insight on the context.

In the last few days, GayRussia has been consulting with its activists, other Russian-based LGBT activist groups and legal specialists to think of how to best address the current circumstances.

First, you need to know that the bill is politically motivated: Russia’s parliamentary elections will take place on December 4 and targeting LGBT is a way to earn support from religious and nationalist organizations. The bill received support from Valentina Matviyenko, the former governor of the city who is now the speaker of the upper chamber of parliament. Politicians in Moscow have said that they are ready to implement a similar law in the Russian capital, as well as at the federal level.

Second, we want to stress that a ban on the promotion of LGBT rights in public spaces has de facto been enforced in Russia since 2005. Implementation of this law is only the materialization of what has been a sad reality for years. For several years, GayRussia has been denouncing the absence of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association for Russian LGBT. Over 300 public events for which GayRussia applied for permits have been banned, LGBT groups partnering with us have been denied registration by the government in several regions, and our activists have been often fined, arrested, convicted by courts and humiliated. They have brought twenty cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations. Russian prosecutors have refused to open criminal investigations against Mufti Talgat Tadjudin, Oleg Betin, the governor of Tambov, and the former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, for inciting hatred against or calling for the murder of LGBT. The Russian courts have even legalized the demeaning word “gomik” (faggot), which was used by Yuri Luzhkov when referring to gays.

Third, we see this law as a unique chance for the Russian LGBT community to re-mobilize itself, as it did in 2002, against an attempt to re-criminalize homosexuality, and in 2006, on the eve of the first Moscow Gay Pride event.

Russia’s LGBT community has historically been divided, and GayRussia would like to hope that today’s attacks by politicians in St. Petersburg will serve as a lesson for LGBT groups in St. Petersburg who have been appearing in the media since 2005 arguing that both gay pride events and gay marriage are provocations.

This anti-LGBT law is a chance for the Russian LGBT community to work against homophobic politicians and the government rather than to work against each other. Our enemies are the homophobes: LGBT rights campaigners should not attack each other. If we stand united, we have more chances than if we stand on two opposite sides where we only fuel the anti-gay rhetoric.

Fourth, the St Petersburg law is nothing new in Russia. Similar laws have already come into force in Ryazan (in 2006) and in Arkhangelsk (in 2011).  More frightening, it is being discussed in Moscow, and also in Ukraine. It has also been discussed in Lithuania in recent years.

GayRussia is the only Russian LGBT group which campaigned against the anti-gay law in Ryazan in 2009, when Nikolay Bayev and Irina Fedotova (Fet) were arrested and fined for holding up a banner in front of a local school stating that “Homosexuality is normal.” The Constitutional Court has already rendered a decision arguing that the law did not violate the constitution. The activists have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

These two cases are today a chance to make anti-gay laws history not only in Russia but in the whole of Europe.

The faster the European Court of Human Rights considers the case of Nikolay Bayev vs. Russia, the faster we will get a decision. And this decision will be binding for Russia. More important, it will set a precedent that will apply to Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, Ukraine, Lithuania and other parts of Europe.

JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN!

At this stage, your support and your mobilization can help achieve a global solution to this problem, not only in St. Petersburg, but also in Ryazan, in Arkhangelsk, in Moscow, in Ukraine, and elsewhere.

By asking the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee to prioritize the case of Bayev and Fedotova, you can make a difference globally. GayRussia offers template letters that you can print and send. An envelope, a stamp, and a piece of paper is all you need!

If ten thousand of you write a letter to these two institutions, IT CAN MAKE A HUGE CHANGE. Each of your letters will be appended to the files of each case. The more letters are filed, the more chances we have of showing the importance of these cases.

Templates of letters to send are available here:

http://www.gayrussia.eu/en/campaigns/model_letters.php

It will then be up to us to do the job and ensure that we win the case. We assure you that our efforts to fight in court and win the case will be as tireless and unstoppable as our previous campaigns have been. Our aim is to defeat our Constitutional Court and our homophobic government. This year, GayRussia won the first-ever LGBT case in Russia (on the banning of the Moscow Pride event) in the European Court of Human Rights.

Today, GayRussia and other Russian LGBT groups — Equality St. Petersburg, Radio Indigo, Russian Community LGBT Grani, Marriage Equality, Moscow Pride Committee, Article 282, and Pride House Sochi — are launching the campaign

10,000 letters to the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations against Anti-Gay Laws in Russia

The campaign, which is launched under the patronage of the IDAHO Committee (France), has received support from the Kaleidoscope Trust (UK), Gay Liberation Network (USA), Outrage! and Peter Tatchell Foundation (UK). It has received media support from our longtime international media partners, Gay City News (USA), Yagg.com (France), UkGaynews.org.uk (United Kingdom), Queer.de (Germany), Gayby.net (Belarus), and will be chronicled on reporter Rex Wockner’s online networks.

It kicked off with an article by Nikolai Alekseev published in The Guardian.

QUOTES

“This campaign goes beyond Russia, our aim is to put a barrier to any attempts limiting freedom of speech for LGBT people in Europe,” said Nikolai Alekseev, founder of GayRussia and Moscow Pride.

“10,000 of you can make a change simply by buying a stamp and an envelope,” added Mr Alekseev.

“IDAHO stands united with our brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe to put an end to these anti-gay laws and we call on each of you to spend a few minutes of your time and write to the European Court and the UN to try to make a change,” said Louis-Georges Tin, President of the IDAHO Committee.

“The IDAHO Committee wrote to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights committee asking both of these institutions to grant priority treatment to the case of Bayev and Fedotova and is calling on any LGBT organization and any individuals to do the same,” added Mr Tin.

“The Kaleidoscope Trust strongly supports this action and we are asking all our supporters to join this letter writing campaign. Politicians in all corners of the world like to attack LGBT people to win popularity. But we can take action now to demonstrate that our rights are as valid as everybody else’s and these legal challenges are a vital step,” said Lance Price, Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust.

“World leaders like Putin, Obama and Medvedev pretend they support human rights, but then support the violent suppression of ‘Occupy’ protesters, the murders of democracy activists in Egypt, and now, the escalation of attacks on the free speech rights of LGBTs and others in Russia.  It is our responsibility to forcefully denounce the hypocrisy of ‘our’ leaders, to directly organize against them, and to foil their plans for violence, exploitation and oppression by any means necessary,” said Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network co-founder.

“We are very proud to support Russia’s courageous, inspiring LGBT activists as they challenge these latest attacks on LGBT human rights and freedom of expression. We urge the European Union, United Nations and Council of Europe to ensure Russia’s compliance with the human rights conventions it has signed and pledged to uphold,” said Peter Tatchell from Outrage! in London.

What you should do right now:

  • Ask the European Court of Human Rights to give priority treatment to the case of Bayev vs Russia (67667/09). Use the template available here:

http://www.gayrussia.eu/en/campaigns/model_letters.php

  •  Ask the UN Human Rights Committee to give priority treatment to the case of Fedotova vs Russia (1932/2010). Use the template available here:

http://www.gayrussia.eu/en/campaigns/model_letters.php

Other things you can do:

  • Ask your minister of foreign affairs to raise the question of anti-gay laws with their Russian counterparts.
  • Ask Catherine Ashton (if you are a EU citizen) to remind Russia that LGBT rights are human rights and that anti-gay laws are unacceptable from a trading partner of the EU.
  • Ask the Council of Europe’s General Secretary to remind Russia of its obligation to strictly apply the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that it ratified.

List of contact details if you want to take any action listed above

European Court of Human Rights

Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 30

Post: European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe, 67075 Strasbourg, France

UN Human Rights Committee

Post: Palais Wilson, 52 rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Thorbjorn Jagland

Council of Europe General Secretary

Phone:  +33 3 88 41 20 00

Post: Avenue de l’Europe , 67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France

Catherine Ashton

Vice President of the European Commission, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Email: COMM-SPP-HRVP-ASHTON@ec.europa.eu

Phone:  +32 2 584 11 11

Post: European External Action Service, 1046 Brussels, Belgium

ATTENTION! At the site www.pamfax.biz/en/ you can send your fax to Strasbourg absolutely for free! Use this opportunity if you want to send a fax instead of a letter!

And also keep us informed of your efforts by writing to us at: media(at)gayrussia.eu !

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"Deputies, don't incite hatred and homophobia!"

Photos from this past Sunday’s flash mob action in Arts Square against the Petersburg anti-gay bill, organized by Coming Out, courtesy of Sergey Chernov.

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Filed under activism, feminism, gay rights, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

A Letter from Moscow

The letter below was sent to us the other day by Petr Bystrov, an artist based in Moscow. We have reproduced it here because it provides vivid, firsthand testimony about the continuing disaster in Moscow and other parts of Russia, and how many people there and elsewhere perceive the bizarre response of high officials to the calamity, which has combined silence, grandstanding, disinformation, and a disavowal of the disastrous neoliberal policies that have aggravated the crisis (including Putin’s 2007 gutting of the country’s forestry management system).

We would beg to differ with Petr’s conclusion, however. First, because even in the face of the present calamity, not all Russians are as “stupid” or “submissive” as he argues. On the contrary, there is evidence of real grassroots solidarity. Second, one of the goals of this blog has always been to make instances of solidarity and resistance more visible to the outside world. The current Russian regime often resorts to intimidation of various kinds when faced with more or less massive popular self-organization (as Peter correctly points out has been the case with the defense of the Khimki Forest). Even when this is not the case (although, sadly, it almost always is), acts of resistance and solidarity are often underreported in the media or ignored altogether, thus reinforcing the sense of powerlessness that afflicts many people here, not just Petr. This is not to mention the mind-boggling level of official corruption and malfeasance that batter ordinary Russians everywhere, as described even in the positive report we have linked to above:

Many people have used their blogs to relate their own anecdotes about delivering aid and fighting fires. In one Gogolesque anonymous post currently making the rounds on LiveJournal, residents from the Chuvash capital of Cheboksary drove overnight to the neighboring republic of Marii-El to deliver boxes of food and nonprescription medical supplies they had purchased with money donated by concerned neighbors.

At one point, the blogger relates, they were stopped by local police who accused them of illegal activity and then helped themselves to some of the supplies in their trunk. Later, they encountered a group of Emergency Situations Ministry employees playing cards and drinking vodka as two fire trucks stood idly by, water leaking from their tanks, unused.

“We’re just in shock, this isn’t the ESM, it’s a FUNERAL BRIGADE,” the blogger comments. (Eventually, the group found a village elder who served them hot tea and gratefully received what remained of their supplies.)

We also cannot help noting that societies seemingly less troubled by a violent historical legacy and a reactionary present also evince symptoms of “passivity” and “stupidity.” Was the official response to Hurricane Katrina any less of a mockery than what we’re seeing in Russia today? Are Americans rioting in the streets to end their country’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan? Have Europeans united in solidarity against attempts to slash and burn the social-democratic model?

The only correct answer to these (rhetorical) questions is: more publicity, more merciless analysis, more solidarity, more grassroots self-organization, globally and locally. Otherwise, we are all doomed to go up in smoke.

__________

To: Petersburgers, friends, correspondents, and the international community

Hello, everyone!

This letter is not a cry for help, but an attempt to inform you about what has really been going on in Moscow in recent days. It is written from the viewpoint of the father of two small children, from an apartment one hundred meters away from the Leningrad Highway section of the Moscow Ring Road, in Novye Khimki.

The already-critical situation (which neither before nor after the events described in this letter has been declared an emergency) that has unfolded in Russia, the Moscow Region, and the city of Moscow since mid-July (forest and peat bog fires, record-breaking heat, the absence of wind or rain) began to rapidly deteriorate on the night of Thursday, August 5, when smog engulfed the city in such a way that by morning (Friday, August 6) visibility was reduced to fifty meters even according to official sources.

On television, there is no information about the nature of the cataclysm from competent sources (doctors, scientists, politicians). On the radio, where there is more freedom, what we mostly hear is criticism of the totally corrupt and devastated systems of fire prevention and forestry management, as well as doubts about a swift resolution of this crisis (or, as the president put it, this bloody mess.)

My suspicions and sense of increasing danger were aggravated by the fact that when the smog was still relatively light, reports about it came hot and heavy. But ever since the situation has become genuinely critical (for example, since the death rate has skyrocketed), coverage on the topic of the fires has become feeble and routine, as if we were dealing with an already-established state of affairs that did not call for emergency measures.

I assume that this was the Kremlin’s way of preventing panic, for there were ample reasons to panic.

The media took the line of defending the reputation of the government and the president, presenting them as wholly engrossed in the bitter struggle with the elements.

In terms of saving their reputations, our political spinmeisters/cosmetologists came up with a quite reliable tack: our leaders are defending and helping people, and they’ll come out looking like heroes. But how long this will go on is not in their power to decide – it’s a natural disaster, after all. Putin said right from the beginning that all the fires would subside once the snows came. And we will еternally honor the memory of those who perish during this time. So now we have to wait no more than three months for a miracle.

Сommenting on Mayor Luzhkov’s absence from Moscow and, in general, his utter silence on the matter, the press office of the Moscow city administration issued a comical statement at the weekend: the smog is coming from the area around Moscow, where there are fires blazing, but in Moscow there are no fires. Therefore, there is nothing for the mayor of Moscow to do here.

Then Medvedev said something to same effect (on Monday, August 9): enough complaining about the government – they’re not the ones starting the fires.

And now for serious matters.

There have been indirect reports (mostly on the radio, but censorship exists there as well) about the transfer of all available resources to prevent the flames from reaching nuclear facilities (in Sarov, Voronzeh, and Chelyabinsk). This information was presented in an apophatic, neutralizing mode: firefighters are battling, they’ve contained the blaze, the danger that existed only an hour ago has now passed. That is, when the danger arose, there was silence. Later we were informed that everything was okay: the problem had been taken care of.

What thus emerged was a classical aporia: at any specific moment in time there is no danger (only smog, fire, and a lack of visibility), but every time you look back, you find out that there had just been a threat, but it had been overcome. I assume that a smart political handler with a philosophy degree came up with this uncomplicated aporia.

Forgive me, dear friends, for descending into sarcasm from time to time: these days have done a terrific job of exhausting me body and soul.

What follows is a brief chronology of the weekend’s events. At around 11:30 p.m. on Thursay, a storm suddenly whipped up. For twenty minutes, lightning flashed and a violent (albeit dry) wind blew. Then there was a sprinkling of rain for literally five minutes, after which thick, bluish smoke suddenly set in. It continued to thicken in such a way that by Friday morning (as had happened during the week and even earlier) it hadn’t cleared a whit.

On Friday, there were very few people on the streets because a categorical ban against opening windows had been issued over the TV.

I was forced to go to the supermarket, which was also filled with gray smoke.

Russia’s chief sanitary inspector, Gennady Onishchenko, issued a decree (!) that everyone who could should leave Moscow. And yet an official emergency has not still not been declared.

Over the course of a day, the color and density of the smog changes, something visible to the naked eye. The odor of the smoke also changes, ranging from a pungent, charcoal smell to a strong aroma that reminds you of the fact that there are chemical weapons warehouses in the Moscow Region and other parts of the country.

Neither on Friday or at the weekend was there any information forthcoming about the nature of the gas, the color, the smell, the prospects of its lifting, the threat it posed to various age groups or ways of defending oneself against it – nothing.

“Specialists” just keep repeating that the concentration of toxic particles in the air is three to seven times over the norm, which is absurd because these and even more alarming figures had been been made public by “official correspondents” weeks ago, when the sky was completely clear.

On Saturday evening, sixteen (!) children were playing on our playground, which was barely visible from our window. This was a desperate gesture, on the order of drinking sea water to slake one’s thirst. At around this same time it became clear that the situation would not be resolved anytime soon. The smog сould persist for three days or a week or two weeks. The temperature could continue to be abnormally high. The fires could subside and then flare up again. Russia lacks the necessary infrastructure for localizing, extinguishing and managing the flames.

As for us, on Monday we spent the fourth day in a row behind closed windows covered with damp sheets. The temperature and humidity were high; the wind speed, zero meters per second – total calm.

The sun was not visible, and the temperature outside was +34 degrees Centigrade. We broke down and took the kids on a “walk” to the food shop in our own building: they have an air conditioner.

During the second half of the day, the weather cleared for literally two hours, but then there was a sudden gust of wind and masses of gray smoke completely engulfed the sky. We closed the windows again.

Literally everyone who could has left the city, tens of thousands of people. On Monday, there were no traffic jams anywhere in Moscow!

The incidents of people reporting to hospital with heatstroke have been massive, and the death rate is still three times above the norm: the morgues are unable to cope with the influx of corpses. All information of this sort is openly reported on the radio.

On Wednesday we found out that a decree had been “sent down” to the districts to evacuate thousands of children. I spoke personally to a district representative about the condition of my children, who are covered with a rash and breathing more heavily than usual. (Ordinarily, they are healthy kids, and they have no allergies.). In a manner befitting a true Russian politician, he said that there would definitely be evacuations, but he didn’t know exactly who would be evacuated, where they would be sent, and when the evacuations would take place. He asked me to call the following day.

We called the following day. This time we were told that old people would be transported. (I should point out that lifeless old people have already been transported in great quantities during the past days.) It was again unclear when this would happen, but old people have been given higher priority than children – Medvedev’s policy of modernization in action.

Dear friends, I’m not spinning you a tale here, but describing the real situation. Medvedev visited a hospital, where he was told that massive numbers of old people had sought medical care. He responded to this by saying, Good: that means that the lifespan in Russia is increasing.

I would like to devote a separate paragraph to the debilitating patience of the Russian people, who stupidly putter around their cells until the danger has passed and then spill out onto the streets, beer in hand, to enjoy life. Any social initiative – for example, a demonstration or picket – is doomed to nonexistence. That’s how it is. Moreover, the events unfolding around the defense of the Khimki Forest, visible from my window, testify to the fact that initiative is a physically punishable offense.

I have my own theory about this, which I won’t discuss here to save paper. But the submissiveness, stupidity, and omnivorousness of our people appears extremely ominous against the constrasting background of social and economic woes, and natural disasters.

Petr Bystrov
August 7–12, Moscow

Photos courtesy of Petr Bystrov

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Filed under open letters, manifestos, appeals, Russian society

The Bulldozer Exhibition (Kadashi, Moscow)

Roland Oliphant, “Facing the Bulldozer” (Russia Profile):

Activists have dug themselves in at a building site in central Moscow to stop developers from throwing up a housing and office complex next door to an ancient Church in one of Moscow’s oldest and most picturesque districts. The situation deteriorated into open confrontation on Sunday night, when developers sent security guards in to clear the site and begin work. They were stopped by activists, including a State Duma deputy.

The quarrel revolves around plans to build what the developers call a “multifunctional complex” – a mixture of housing and office space dubbed “Five Capitals” – next to the 17th century Church of the Resurrection in [Kadashi], a historical area of central Moscow that is also home to the Tretyakov Gallery. No one involved seems to be able to remember exactly when the drama began; the consensus is that it has been going on “for a few years.” Banners posted outside the building site by the developers give the start date of construction only as 2009.

Critics of the plan, including State Duma deputies, the parish church and the combative architectural heritage group Arkhnadzor, objected not only that the planned buildings change the character of the area, but that they necessitate the destruction of a number of historic buildings.

[…]

The moratorium only lasted five days, until the evening of June 7, when private security guards arrived to clear away protestors and secure the entrance to the site. A confrontation ensued in which the private security guards tried to prevent them from picketing the building site, reportedly kicking and punching Just Russia State Duma Deputy Valery Gartung when he tried to challenge them.

The standoff endured all night, with some colorful incidents. Another Just Russia deputy, Anton Belyakov, arrived and told the traffic police to move the demolition vehicles lurking in a nearby street because they were blocking the traffic. Then at two a.m. the chief of the central administrative district’s department of the interior showed up saying that he was there to “prevent a massacre,” Gazeta.ru reported. At eight a.m. workers, unable to get their heavy vehicles through the picket line, started work with hand-help pneumatic drills on demolishing another building – a 19th century sausage factory, according to the activists. By early afternoon the street outside the site was swarming with reporters and television crews, and Artyom Khromov, an Arkhandzhor organizer, emerged from talks with the developers to announce a 48-hour truce.

What happens after the next 48 hours is anyone’s guess. Khromov said the two day gap would give them time to draft a concrete agreement, but Algeev, another organizer, declined to try predicting the future. “I’m not ready to second guess what the outcome will be,” he said. But the protestors may have won something: Gromov – the same deputy head of the Heritage Committee who had earlier said the buildings being destroyed were unimportant – later announced that the entire contraction project would occur “not only in the presence of archaeologists, but under their direct control.”

Either way, the headlines that the affair has been making and the willingness of the city authorities to broker a compromise, is good news, said Algeev. “This is the first big protest by citizens in defense of their heritage. More people are beginning to care about it, so now there is some hope that the situation in Moscow for historic building is going to improve. But that’s only a hope.”

[Read the whole story here. There is another account of the conflict in the Moscow Times. More photos from this past weekend’s confrontation here and here. ]

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