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Monday, April 16, 2007

Failure in St. Petersburg

After the vicious crackdown imposed on the first "Other Russia" protest in Moscow over the weekend, the second effort in St. Petersburg the following day fizzled out almost entirely. LR has heard it said that Piter is a more enlightened, Western-looking city than Moscow. Perhaps it ain't necessarily so. The Beeb reports:

The participants gathered at a square in the city centre, but were encircled by a similar number of riot police and prevented from marching. Smaller groups clashed with police after the main rally finished. Several opposition leaders were arrested. Ex-chess champion Garry Kasparov was among 170 held in the Moscow march. Mr Kasparov was freed several hours later after being fined $40 (£20) for public order offences. The protesters, allied under the Other Russia coalition, say President Vladimir Putin is stifling democracy.

March banned

Reports say Eduard Limonov, leader of the radical National Bolshevik party, and several other organisers were arrested. {LR: Bloomberg reported that Limonov was arrested at home in St.. Petersburg; unlike Kasparov, he didn't even make it to the street} A number of participants had been detained on arrival in the city, including the leader of the Pora youth movement Andrey Sidelnikov and Olga Kurnosova, the local head of Mr Kasparov's United Civil Front. A reporter for the private Moscow Echo radio station said before the rally that he saw interior ministry troops and a water cannon in the city, adding that people could be forgiven for thinking a military operation was about to start.

Demonstrators were seen holding flags of various groups including that of the liberal Yabloko party and the hammer and sickle banner of the National Bolsheviks. But correspondents say the turnout was not as good as the organisers might have hoped. Organisers contemplated whether to try to march down the city's main street, but were blocked by police and began to disperse after two hours. One group of demonstrators who avoided the encirclement tried to march but were stopped at a nearby railway station, where scuffles broke out with police, local media said. Reports say several people were beaten by police, including an elderly man. Russian authorities sanctioned the rally but banned any marching. President Vladimir Putin denies the opposition charge that he is trampling on democracy, accusing the opposition of destabilising Russia.

In Moscow on Saturday, a huge security operation, including more than 9,000 police, was launched to prevent protesters from gathering at Pushkin Square. Mr Kasparov's swift arrest followed warnings by the prosecution office on the eve of the march, stating that anyone participating risked being detained. After being released Mr Kasparov said: "It is no longer a country... where the government tries to pretend it is playing by the letter and spirit of the law."

Violence from the cowardly Kremlin was in full flower, course, as the Belfast Telegraph reports:

The event in St Petersburg turned violent when the crowd began to disperse and make their way to a nearby metro station. It was at that point, according to protesters, that the police launched an unprovoked attack, beating people about the legs and the body with batons. Up to 150 protesters were arrested in the violence that followed and bundled into police vans, where eyewitnesses claimed the beating continued. Marina Litvinovich, an aide to Mr Kasparov attending the rally, said that the violence used against protesters was unjustified and disproportionate. "The meeting was peaceful and was finished when trouble started. The police simply started beating people. One man, a 65-year-old, had his leg broken." A female official from the liberal Yabloko party, Olga Tsepilova, had her nose broken and sustained serious head injuries. The police told a different version of events; they claimed that members of several radical youth movements had tried to break through police lines and pelted riot police with bottles and stones. Although the rally was sanctioned by the authorities, protesters were warned beforehand that they should under no circumstances attempt to march down Nevsky Prospekt, the city's main street. The police claimed that was exactly what the young radicals had tried to do and argued that they had been compelled to use force.

It's clear that the protest groups were not fully prepared for preemptive action by the Kremlin, nor was the St. Petersburg rally adequately publicized or ready for the chilling effect of the Moscow crackdown. Still, significant publicity was generated. By Sunday morning, the Kremlin's crackdown had made the front page of Google News with nearly 1,000 entries, as the screenshot below demonstrates:



The protesters need to do more with publicity of this kind, getting the word out as to what they plan to do next and how the outside world can best support them. They clearly lack sufficient relationships with the Western reporters and their web presence in English is negligible. More important, they need to fill the coverage with their ideological message and in so doing directly confront the Kremlin; Berezovsky has done a better job of this in recent days than the protesters. As shown at left, the anti-democracy protesters celebrated without police restrictions, laughing in the faces of those who struggle for democracy.


Video material on the protests is available for download at the New Times link here and in Youtube format here and here. Many more photos here.

6 comments:

Timothy Post said...

Vicious crackdown>

Give us a break. The "protesters" (both those who were paid and those who really cared) didn't have a permit to gather in Pushkin Square. They did, however, have a permit to gather in another location in Moscow.

Vicious crackdown. I'm giggling. Kasporov was fined $38 dollars. Holy smokes. Almost $40 bucks. Guess he'll have to skip his daily latte for a week.

Did Kasporov spend ONE night in jail. Nope.

The protesters in St. petersburg were in fact, allowed to gather but not allowed to march. Whatever.

Stop your whining and get over yourselves.

La Russophobe said...

Many people were serverely beaten, you cretinous yahoo. And if you have evidence of anyone being paid to risk their lives protesting for democracy, you sure don't cite it. Scumbag. Why don't you disclose your personal financial stake in the Kremlin's activities?

They didn't have a permit because their application was illegally denied, while permission was granted to Kremlin-friendly groups.

If you think it's amusing to be arrested by the Kremlin's gestapo, we sincrely wish you will have that pleasure very soon, and often!

Timothy Post said...

Financial stake? Scumbag? Cretinous yahoo (I actually prefer Google)?

La Russophobe, it's really a shame you don't have any manners because you are obviously well spoken and often make some very interesting points. I really enjoy reading your blog but it's amazing how often you insist on incivility yet criticize the Kremlin for their supposed lack of civility.

What exactly did the Kremlin do wrong? These folks didn't have a permit. Boo hoo, they were denied a permit. I wish I could get a permit for you and me to have a protest in Times square but I would guess that despite how much we might scream and whine we would be denied one.

Sure, when protesters defy the rules and laws of a metropolis they get bumped and banged around. happens in Moscow, St. Pete, New York, and even in Paris. Not to mention Turkey, where they actually had a "real" protest with 300K real protesters.

So, pipe down Mrs Anonymous hysterical Russophobe. Your act suffers from your lack of transparency and shrill shouting and name calling.

You take yourself awfully seriously for someone who hides behind a crazy persona.

Mamuka said...

Dear Mr Post:

I think we should adopt your position and start fining people here in the States when they protest. It's only fair, in order to recoup the costs of additional security and the extra expense that the government has to incur to respond to the worldwide OUTCRY that would accompany such a policy.

Despite the billions (milliardi) flowing into Russia, Inc, it is still a fairly poor country overall. Therefore, a $38 fine (an amount you yourself admit is nominal) should be increased to at least $500 for protesting in the US. In the UK things are much more expensive; perhaps 500 GBP. And in Western Europe, 500 Euro should be adequate.
.
In this way we can follow the example of Mr Putin. Let us all support the movement for a third term! And let's keep W around for another four years too.

Da zdravstvuyet Edinaya Rossiya! Pust idei V.V. Putina razvivaet nashu velikuyu Rodinu!

Timothy Post said...

Mamuka:

Despite your sarcasm ast least you're civil and have a sense of humor.

I am not sure I agree with your underlying premise that the protesters in Moscow should NOT have been fined and should have been free to hold their protest anywhere and anytime they choose.

Despite Mr. kasparov's obviously infalted sense of importance, it is not a given that ANY group should be able to protest anywhere they want. There are rules in every country regarding protests. The Kasparov folks did not have a permit to march and protest in Pushkin Square. They DID have a permit to gather in another location.

Despite Miss La Russophobe's claim that their permit application was illegally denied (where pray tell is YOUR citation that the denial of said application was illegally denied by the Kremlin LoR?), they didn't have a permit. End of story. They knew and the authorities knew that they did not have a permit. Therefore, their insistence of proceeding was a provocative act. hence, the police presence.

So, the boys should have been fined. I'd say $38 bucks was pretty reasonable for all the publicity such a non-event generated.

Lastly, I don't agree with your last sentence that Putin is Russia's panacea. Putin has been an excellent President for Russia but not perfect.

Like you, I'm curious as to what will follow his 2nd term.

Cyrill said...

LR: It appears from Limonov's own writings in Grani (Facets) that he was arrested in his friend's apartment after the rally in St. Petersburg where he spoke.

In general, the Western media coverage of these events is lacking at least in one aspect: nowhere do I see any serious analyses of who the National Bolsheviks really are. I understand that the strange alliance between NutsBals and Kasparov is temporary, but National Bolsheviks are, for all intends and purposes, fascists. Their economic and social philosophy is a mix of Lenin and Mussolini. While they are banned and in opposition, they seem to favor democracy, but the system they want to establish can not exist as a democracy.

Here is my full take on this

Cyrill