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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Kremlin Offensive Against Russia's "Defense"

A reader writes about the valiant efforts of those who struggle anonymously for freedom in Russia. Write your elected representatives and ask them to throw their support behind these heroes, these true Russian patriots, before it is too late. The group described below, whose Russian name is "Oborona" (which means "Defense" -- here, of civil liberties) is supposed to have a website located here. However, it was inaccessible when last checked and may be under KGB assault. They are quite decentralized, which is good protection from the authorities, but unfortunately it makes it difficult for them to communciate effectively with the outside world. We have emblazoned our sidebar with their emblem as a show of solidarity and welcome the opportunity to publish their writings or more information about them.

The Russian human rights organization "Oborona" has stepped out of the usual personality-driven system of Russian politics (yes it exists even in youth activism) by working as a coalition under joint leadership. They are being threatened and harassed on a constant basis by the FSB. They are very brave. They are true heroes who have thrown away much of their opportunities for future prosperity (the FSB won't forget them) by committing themselves to radical (peaceful) activism in the cause of democracy in Russia today. Virtually no one in the West knows about them and quite a few Russians couldn't care less either, sadly. That's because they swallow the lies on TV, have their political consciences numbed by a bit of material prosperity, and are convinced that Putin does indeed need to bomb the hell out of the Chechens. They will be the leaders of the opposition of tomorrow. What we can do to support them today will build into Russia in the decades to come. As you will learn when I eventually write up my piece for you, even their protest action in Moscow last week (see February 21st report below) was kept from public view by a total lockdown of the city centre by the MVD. I couldn't even get within sight of their (legally permitted) demo. No one could. It is an interesting take on "free speech" that they can say what they like but no one else is allowed to hear it, see it, or read about it happening.

On January 23rd, Prima News reported an attack on a leader of a Russian human rights group known as "Defense" ("Oborona") as follows:


RUSSIA, Moscow. On January 17, three unidentified men in civilian clothes attempted to enter the apartment of Moscow Defense coordinator Mikas Murashev. After presenting themselves as police, they demanded that Murashev's wife immediately open the door, without explaining why and threatening that if she refused "things could go badly". Without having achieved their objective, the unidentified men ended their siege of Murashev's apartment. The regional police told Murashev that they sent no one to his address, and recommended he not open the door. They suggested the men a the door might be from the UBOP (the organized crime unit), which actively opposes independent public organizations. Not long before this, Mikas Murashev was called by someone who identified himself as Lieutenant Police Colonel Kostikov, who proposed they "meet encountered and have a talk", the subject of which is unknown. Since the policeman did not say what his agenda was, Murashev did not meet with him. This is not the first case of pressure on family members of activists of oppositional organizations in Moscow, notes "Defense". Recently, the leader of the National Democratic Union of Young People Julia Malysheva and a lawyer for the Russian People's Democratic Union were invited to Petrovka for the "friendly conversations". A month ago, Moscow police blockaded the apartment of the parents of Alex Shonev, Politsovet member of the National- Bolshevik Party, and editor of site NBP-Info, for several days.

Next, on Feburary 21st, Prima reported:

RUSSIA, Moscow. On February 18th in Moscow, at the Ostankino television station, activists from the youth movement "Defense" conducted an unsanctioned action against censorship and lies on television. At 1:00pm, Oleg Kozlovsky, Yulia Malysheva and Anton Firsov handcuffed themselves to a fence at the main entrance to the television station and unrolled a sign reading "Enough lies!" They also gave out leaflets. The leaflets stated:
Television in Russia has for a long time been not media, but a propagandistic instrument in the hands of authority. We want to end the brainwashing of people by television. In order to do so, we must destroy monopoly access to television. Five years ago Putin and his ministers promised that there would be many general national television channels in Russia, and only one state station. But instead, they took control of many or destroyed many channels. Now all information on TV is checked by the president's administration. The task of these television stations is to extol the authorities, to pour on mud on their enemies, and to convert spectators into idiots, and indeed idiots who are more easily manipulated. We have had enough!

We demand:

1. A return straight broadcasts of social and political information;
2. An end to "black lists" of people and organizations that cannot be invited on TV
3. An end to "topic selections" by the president's administration, which decide what events will be covered
4. The sale of state television channels into the different hands (but not only to new Putin oligarchs), leaving only one government channel.
The direct action was a completely unexpected contingency for the television station's security, which, in the confusion, could not undertake any action, noted "Defense". At 1:30 the activists were approached by 12 policemen. At 2:10. the police took off their handcuffs. Participants in the action were detained and taken to the Ostankino OVD (Prospekt Mira, Building 3. OVD Phone Number 616-6306).

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