Russian Protesters Defy Putin’s Warning On Illegal Protest Gatherings
The Russian protesters who won’t give up
The 31ers are making their protest global after being fenced out of a Moscow square
For the Kremlin it has become something of an embarrassment. On the 31st of the month, a group of noisy protesters gather in downtown Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square. They shout slogans against Vladimir Putin and his regime. The 31ers, as they are known, are seeking to defend Russia’s much-abused constitution and in particular article 31 – meant to guarantee freedom of assembly.
Over this year Moscow’s city government has devised various tactics to stop these rallies from taking place, ranging from the brutal to the surreal – the campaign is beginning to look like a convoluted game of chess for control of the square. The authorities have turned down all applications to stage the “Strategy-31” gatherings. And in time-honoured Russian fashion, mayor Yuri Luzhkov has sent in the goons, with riot police deployed on every occasion to arrest protesters and chuck them in the back of police vans. In May police broke a journalist’s arm; in July officials came up with a rival event in the square – a car rally.
Ahead of the latest 31 gathering, these tactics have reached a new level of ridiculousness. The government last week announced it was building an underground car park underneath the square and fenced off the whole area. On Friday, two workmen could be seen slowly digging a small hole next to a statue of Russian futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. It is clear that nobody is in any hurry to get the work completed, which could now drag on for years.
In retaliation, the 31ers have decided to take their protest global – with the first demonstration taking place today outside the Russian Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens, London and in New York, Helsinki, Berlin and Tel Aviv. “We Russians living abroad cannot stand by quietly and watch as Russia gradually turns into a police state,” Andrey Sidelnikov, organiser of the London picket, says. He adds: “In recent years, in Russia the government has consistently refused to citizens of Russia their legitimate right to assemble freely.”
In the eight months since the rallies started, protesters have included elderly dissidents who fought against the Soviet Union and teenagers who were born in the 1990s, well after the collapse of communism. The protests rarely attract more than a few hundred people – although the rally in May drew a crowd of 2,000, which was violently broken up by police.
At some point, one hopes, Russia’s authoritarian-minded leadership will have to come up with a creative response to Russia’s vigorous social protest movement. A fence simply doesn’t cut it. – Source
Stray Bullets – 31ers Plan Global Protests, Nokia Sued And Sudan’s Child Soldiers
Strategy 31 protests
Russian Protests Set To Go Global:
by Richard Lemmer
A Russian protest group, known informally as the 31ers, are planning to stage global protests against the Russian government’s breaching of the national constitution. Started on July 31 2009, Strategy 31 is a civic movement which holds public protest meetings in Triumfalnaya Square, Moscow, on the 31st day of every month that has 31 days. This is a symbolic reference to article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which asserts the right to peaceful assembly.
January of this year saw more than 150 protesters arrested, including 82-year-old renowned human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva. In July 2010, city officials helped organise a bike festival from 30 July to 1 August, in Triumfalnaya Square; in what many see as a deliberate move to foil the protests. Now, the government has announced the square is out of bounds to the protest group because an underground car park is being built beneath the square, which has been partially fenced off.
In retaliation, the 31ers are planning demonstrations to take place outside the Russian Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens, London, and in New York, Helsinki, Berlin and Tel Aviv. Viktor Korb, secretary of the Omsk Civic Coalition, told Open Democracy:
Observe the Constitution, the message from our Soviet past, has now become relevant. The possibilities afforded by this disaffection with life in a false imitation of democracy are potentially massive. Unfortunately, our civil society is still fragmented, but Stratergy-31 offers the possibility of uniting on the basis of a common idea.
Video of 31ers protest in Russia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BK8eImDEJE
Russia’s “day of wrath”
Thousands protest across Russia in largest show of discontent since
Vladimir Putin came to power more than a decade ago.
by Miriam Elder – GlobalPost
3/20/2010/15:23 ET in Europe
Opposition supporters shout slogans during a protest rally in St. Petersburg, March 20, 2010. Thousands of Russians rallied against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s government in a string of protests fueled by sharp falls in living standards since the economic crisis hit. (Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters) Click to enlarge photo
KALININGRAD, Russia — They gathered under rainy gray skies — men and women, young and old — demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a man long seen as untouchable in Russia’s tightly controlled political scene.
Cries of “Freedom!” and “Putin resign!” filled Kaliningrad’s dilapidated main square, as up to 5,000 people gathered to take part in a nationwide “Day of Wrath.” From Vladivostok in the far east to this, Russia’s westernmost region, dozens of protests were held today in the largest show of discontent since Putin came to power more than a decade ago.
What began as distinct protests against specific economic policies — a rise in utilities prices, an increased tax on imported cars, environmental concerns — have now been united by a growing concensus on who is to blame, said Vladimir Milov, a former energy minister under Putin and current co-leader of Solidarity, an umbrella opposition movement.
“People are clearly moving from specific economic and social demands to general political demands, from the resignation of local governors to the resignation of Putin’s government,” he said, sitting in a Kaliningrad cafe after flying in from Moscow to observe the day’s events.
“There’s a recognition that political factors, and the government, are to blame,” he said.
As yet, it’s unclear how true that is. Putin’s popularity rating remains high and many of today’s protests garnered just 150 to 500 participants. In Irkutsk, where locals voted in a Communist mayor in local elections last week, dealing a heavy blow to the ruling United Russia party, just 500 people turned out (versus the 2,000 who attended a pre-election protest earlier this month).
In Kaliningrad, the population is certainly calling for political change. Today, protesters wore pins disparaging United Russia and called for the ouster of the Moscow-appointed governor, Georgy Boos. The smell of tangerines filled the air as they held aloft the fruit that has become the symbol of the unpopular leader. “It’s because he used to be fat,” said one protester (failing to mention that his face carries the distinct orange glow of a badly done fake tan).
Kaliningrad has held the largest anti-Putin protest to date, with 12,000 taking to the streets on Jan. 30.
Yet ask anyone here, and they will tell you Kaliningrad is different. Nestled between European Union members Poland and Lithuania, and separated from the Russian mainland, it is unlikely to be the launching pad for a wave of large-scale protests — all the more so since television in Russia remains largely state-controlled, and coverage of events here has been nonexistent.
“Our population is different from Russia,” said Konstantin Polyakov, a regional Duma deputy from United Russia. (Nevermind that Kaliningrad is, actually, Russia.) – 2 page here.