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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Other Russia Banned in Nizhny Novgorod

Once again, the mighty Russian Kremlin shows its true cowardly colors. The Moscow Times reports:

A district court on Thursday rejected a request to permit a demonstration organized by The Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups, in the city center here this Saturday.

Organizers said the so-called Dissenters' March would take place despite a ban issued by the city government, however.

"The court didn't rule in our favor, but it's too late," one of the organizers, Ilya Shamazov, told Interfax.

"We intend to hold the planned event in any case because the people of Nizhny Novgorod who want to take part wouldn't understand. And we don't want to agree on another site for the event with the Mayor's Office," he said.

The Mayor's Office declined to comment on the court ruling. A police spokesman said only that everything would be done to ensure order on Saturday.

The planned march in Nizhny Novgorod follows a large unauthorized march organized by The Other Russia in St. Petersburg earlier this month that was violently dispersed by police.

The Other Russia, which includes Eduard Limonov's unregistered National Bolshevik Party, Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front and Mikhail Kasyanov's Popular Democratic Union, also plans marches for next month in Moscow and again in St. Petersburg.

Also on Thursday, the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement that members of Limonov's organization had violated the newly adopted law on extremism.

Moscow city prosecutors have ordered the unregistered party to suspend its activities and asked the Moscow City Court to declare it an extremist organization and to abolish it. (Story, Page 2.)

Activists in Nizhny Novgorod are expected to gather as planned at noon on Gorky Square in the heart of the city.

Organizers say police have visited apartments of local activists in an attempt to dissuade them from participating in the march. Police officers have also gone to local universities and institutes to pressure students into staying away from the march, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

The organizing committee has issued daily news releases in the run-up to the march about detained activists, seized newspapers and an incident in which Tatyana Krasilnikova, editor of the Nizhny Novgorod edition of Kommersant, was questioned by local prosecutors.

Krasilnikova confirmed that she had been questioned, but denied reports that she had defied an order from City Hall not to publish information about the march. She said prosecutors only wanted to check the accuracy of a quote from a march organizer that was included in an article.

Yevgeny Prilepin, a well-known writer who was previously involved with Limonov's organization, said he had also been questioned earlier this week and that prosecutors had attempted to provoke him into saying that the organizers were planning a confrontation with police.

Organizers say that even if they wanted to move the march to another location, they do not have enough money or time to get the word out. Their war chest has been emptied to pay for the printing of posters, leaflets and two special issues of the United Civil Front newspaper devoted to the march.

Police seized most of the second issue -- some 60,000 copies -- on Monday.

On Thursday, the court denied a petition filed by three local activists: Prilepin; civil rights campaigner Sergei Shimovolos; and Vyacheslav Lukin, head of the local branch of the Popular Democratic Union.

It is an open secret, however, that the march is being organized by The Other Russia, a point confirmed by Stanislav Belkovsky, head of the Moscow-based National Strategy Institute.

Belkovsky traveled to Nizhny Novgorod this week "to support the organizers of the march in terms of ideology and organization," he said.

Belkovsky himself will not take part in the march, but he said a "hero" of the earlier march, Sergei Gulyayev, a member of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, would lead Saturday's event.

The organizers hope that core supporters of The Other Russia will be joined on Saturday by local residents who are fed up with new construction in the city center and the destruction of green zones, by drivers outraged over new taxes on car owners, and others.

Some activists are steering clear of the march, however. Askhat Kayumov of the environmental group Dront said taking part in the demonstration would be counterproductive.

"I attended one meeting of the steering group to find out what the organizers were planning," Kayumov said. "But until the march is permitted, our organization won't even think about joining in. We're pushing for City Hall to obey the law when it comes to the environment, so we can't break the law by taking part in an unsanctioned march."

When it denied the organizers' request for a permit to hold the march in the city center, the Mayor's Office proposed an alternative location on the opposite bank of the Oka River, which flows through the city. This change did not suit the organizers, and no compromise was found.

On March 15, the organizers filed a petition with the court to have the city's decision overturned.

During the week that followed, City Hall announced plans for a full program of events for Saturday on Gorky Square and streets on the organizers' planned route.Activists Say Ban Can't Halt March

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