Dmitry Borisov, Russian Political Prisoner

Valery Zen
Facebook
October 21, 2017

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Dmitry Borisov

A couple of days ago I met Dima Borisov’s mother. Dima is the young man facing trumped-up charges for, allegedly, kicking a policeman. Dima now faces up to five years in prison. I don’t want to be a pessimist, but it’s highly likely that he will be sent down and sent down for a long time. But the topic of political prisoners has, apparently, has ceased to interest the opposition crowd.

Do you remember the hullabaloo over the Bolotnaya Square defendants? Nothing even remotely like that has been happening for the guys arrested in connection with the June 12 and March 26 protests. Yet, some of them, by the way, have already been handed sentences twice as long—five years in a penal colony—as the sentences handed out in 2012 and 2013 for the exact same charges.

Realizing that people are unable to free an innocent person on their own or in small groups, I asked Dima’s mom (Irina Andriyevskaya) what could be done to alleviate his plight. She said that people could repost stories about the case. If they couldn’t attend his court hearings, they could tell other people about Dima.

Guys, let’s just support Dima. Let’s show that we know about his misfortune and are not ignoring it. It’s not likely to change anything, but at least Dima and his mom, who is basically fighting this fight alone and certainly has it rougher than we do, will feel that they are not alone, that they have not been abandoned. Especially since nowadays absolutely anyone in this country can become a political prisoner.

I’m not making any demands or blaming anyone. I’m just asking decently.

движение 14%-дмитрий борисов (20.10.17)
Dmitry Borisov in court on October 20, 2017

Moscow City Court Denies Borisov’s Request to Be Released from Police Custody
Tivur Shaginurov
Kasparov.ru
October 2, 2017

Moscow City Court has refused to release Dmitry Borisov, an activist with the 14% Movement. As our correspondent reports, the court heeded the arguments of police investigators, who claimed that Borisov was a flight risk or could influence the investigation.

A reinforced brigade of court bailiffs and two plainclothes policemen were present at Borisov’s appeals hearing. Ultimately, the court extended his term of detention for a month.

Investigators argue that Borisov’s guilt is confirmed by a videotape they have in evidence, adding that the accused has not admitted his guilt and, allegedly, resisted arrest. The accused claims he was resisting unknown men in uniform.

[In the videotape, inserted below, it is clear the police officers who detained Borisov were not wearing badges, as requiredd by the Russian law on police conduct—TRR.]

In turn, the defense argue Borisov is not a flight risk since both his foreign travel and domestic internal passports have been confiscated, and he is not a national of any other country. Borisov’s movements could be tracked with a special bracelet issued by the Federal Penitentiary Service. Nor, according to the defense, could Borisov influence witnesses, especially as the alleged victim and witnesses are police officers.

The defense likewise denied that Borisov had a prior conviction. Borisov explained himself that criminal charges had been filed against him due to a conflict with a drunken man who had insulted his mother. The defendant’s mother, who was present in the courtroom, confirmed her son’s story.

After a heated argument, Borisov’s relatives were removed from the courtroom along with a reporter from the publication Sota [?] who photographed the incident.

They were charged with administrative violations. We should note that the reporter was accredited and had the court’s permission to take pictures. However, court bailiffs argued their actions were justified because she had taken pictures of their faces.

Boris’s attorney noted that the requirements for keeping a defendant or suspect in police custody, as stipulated in Article 97 of the Criminal Procedural Code, were not contained in the prosecution’s demand that Borisov be kept under arrest.

In the video that police investigators cite as evidence of Borisov’s guilt, it is not apparent when and how Borisov kicks a police officer.

Borisov’s supporters plan to organize a flashmob during which they will submit appeals to the Prosecutor General, asking him not to approve the charges against Borisov.

Dmitry Borisov has been accused of twice kicking a police officer in the head when police dispersed a peaceful grassroots protest on March 26, 2017, in Moscow.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade NE for the heads-up. Photos courtesy of Kasparov.ru and the 14% Movement.

The next hearing in Dmitry Borisov’s case is scheduled for 4 p.m. on November 1, 2017, in the Tverskaya District Court in Moscow. Borisov was arrested on June 6, 2017, and has been recognized as a political prisoner by Memorial’s Human Rights Center.

How a Petersburger Trucker Has Decided to Sue Plato

How a Petersburger Trucker Has Decided to Sue Plato
Venera Galeyeva
Fontanka.ru
October 16, 2017

After getting his first fine for non-payment of fees under the Plato road tolls system, a Petersburg trucker has challenged it in court. The case could become an important precedent. 

Как петербургский дальнобойщик решил «Платон» засудить
Truckers waiting outside a Plato office. Photo courtesy of Svetlana Kholyavchuk/Interpress

Individual entrepreneur Yuri Bubnov has two freight trucks, one of which is on the road, a MAN-produced box truck he uses to deliver consumer goods to Moscow and Vladimir. As a matter of principle, he has not registered the truck with the Plato road tolls system, has not put a transponder on the truck, and does not pay the new Plato fees. In 2015, he was one of the few people who took part in a road rally of truckers from Petersburg to Moscow. His runs take him past Plato sensors outside Tosno and in Tver, Klin, and Novgorod Region.

A sensor mounted on the Pokrov–Elektrogorsk segment of the M7 Federal Highway finally reacted to Bubnov’s truck on September 28. On October 6, the traffic police issued Bubnov a fine of 5,000 rubles for failure to pay his Plato road toll fees. Ironically, the very same day, the Russian government approved a fourfold increase in fines for non-payers. On October 14, Bubnov sent a letter to the Odintsovo City Court in Moscow Region challenging the decision to issue the fine and petitioning the court to move the venue for hearing the case to the Kalinin District Court in Petersburg, the plaintiff’s place of residence. The truck is registered in Bubnov’s wife’s name, so she will be acting as a defender in the case: “I consider the ruling in the administrative case unfounded and illegal, which I shall prove during the trial.” Yet Bubnov could pay a discounted fine of 2,500 rubles by October 26 and live peacefully.

Truckers have tried before to challenge the issuing of fines for failure to pay Plato road tolls, but for formal reason,s e.g., the paperworks was not drawn up properly, the truck’s owner was not behind the wheel during the alleged violation, and so on. Bubnov’s case if fundamentally different. He wants to challenge the law itself and is willing to give up at least a year of his life to do it.

Bubnov expounds his position.

“According to the Russian Federal Civil Code, damage must be paid be jointly by everyone everyone involved in causing damage. However much damage you caused that is how you pay,” he says.

[Bubnov has in mind the government’s original stated rationale for introducing the Plato road tolls system. Since cargo trucks, allegedly, cause more wear and tear on federal highways than other vehicles, the argument went, they should pay additional fees, based on the number of kilometers traveled, to compensate for this damage and thus provide more money for repairing major roads.—TRR]

“In addition, the damage I caused has to be proven. And, according to the Russian Federal Tax Code, payments cannot be arbitrary and should reflect the economic essence of the matter. Empty, my vehicle weighs 7,800 kilograms. The maximum weight of a loaded eighteen-wheeler is 44 tons. Obviously, we cause different amounts of wear and tear on the road. Why, then, should I pay the same amount as the driver of a loaded eighteen-wheeler?”

In May 2016, the Russian Federal Consitutional Court ruled the Plato road tolls system legal. Later, however, Constitutional Court Judge Gadis Gadzhiyev issued a dissenting opinion in which, among other things, he suggested clarifying the purpose of the fee, because, economically speaking, Plato is not compensation for damage, but a payment imposed on owners of heavy trucks for using the roads.

“As currently formulated, the Plato system is at odds with Russian federal laws,” says Bubnov. “By itself, travel on public roads is not an offense. There is a Russian federal government decree in which the maximum loads for different types of vehicle are set. The weight of my vehicle is legal.”

Bubnov also invokes an argument that truckers protesting Plato have made since 2015. If a toll is introduced for driving on a certain section of road, drivers should be provided with an alternative free detour. Otherwise, all federal highways would become toll roads for truckers.

Bubnov already has several legal victories under his belt. He has always served as his own defense counsel, and recently he has voluntarily defended his colleagues from different regions in court. On September 20, 2017, he won the so-called tachograph case, in which a trucker had been accused of violating work safety laws. A similar case is now being tried in Altai Territory.

If Bubnov’s appeal, as appended to his complaint against the Plato road tolls system fine, is rejected, first he will have to go to Odintsovo City Court, then to the Moscow Regional Court to appeal the ruling, and then to the Presidium of the Moscow Regional Court and, finally, to the Russian Federal Supreme Court and the Presidium of the Supreme Court. Bubnov plans to go to the bitter end with the final decision. According to his calculations, the whole process may take at least a year. If his petition is granted, the first three sets of hearings will be held in Petersburg. Bubnov plans on going the entire distance himself, without a lawyer.

“Essentially, Yuri Bubnov’s claims are correct,” says Irina Metel, executive director of the Northwest Carriers and Forwarders Union. “In practice, however, any case requires the assistance of a very competent laywer.”

“We are ready to support Yuri Bubnov in court,” says Maria Pazukhina, head of the OPR (Association of Russian Carriers) regional branch in Murmansk. “We have challenged fines before, but only on formal grounds, for example, due to incomplete lists of evidence or instances where agencies not empowered to do so tried to punish carriers. Yuri’s case is fundamentally different. In my view, the current authorities are unlikely to rule that Plato should be abolished. The OPR has been trying to detect the system’s faults in order to reveal its corruption and inefficiency. But so far we have not launched legal proceedings like this.”

“I’d been waiting for this fine for a year and a half, and I finally got it,” Bubnov told Fontanka.ru. “It’s good it came now, while the sensors have not been turned on everywhere. If the system were up and running normally, it would be harder to challenge the fine. The chances of a ruling in my favor are few, but what if suddenly the case is assigned to a judge who is about to retire and has nothing to lose, and he makes a ruling in accordance with the laws?”

FYI
According to Dmitry Pronchatov, assistant director of the Federal Road Agency, since the Plato road tolls system was launched, carriers have paid over 33.3 billion rubles [approx. 494 million rubles] into the road maintenance and construction fund. Over 900,000 vehicles have been registered in the system. The monies have been used to finance the construction of seven bridges and repairs on twenty-four emergency pipelines, as well as over a thousand kilometers of roads in forty cities and regions. Owners of twelve-ton trucks must pay 1.9 rubles for each kilometer of travel on federal highways.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up

Dno Is Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

This past spring, I posted a translation of an article, originally published on the news and commentary website Grani.ru (which has long been banned in Russia) about the plight of Boris Yakovlev, a singer-songwriter from the town of Dno, in Pskov Region, whom the FSB had charged with “extremism,” allegedly, for the “seditious” content of his songs. Yakovlev has now left the country and applied for political asylum in Finland, where Grani.ru caught up with him.

My personal, unsurprising prediction is that the number of “extremists” will quadruple, if not worse, in the coming year. TRR

____________________

The Herald of Revolution from Dno Station
Grani.ru
October 11, 2017

On October 10, Pskov City Court ordered the arrest of the dangerous [sic] extremist Boris Yakovlev at the request of the FSB. By that time, the 44-year-old Dno resident had ignored an written undertaking to report to court on his own recognizance and applied for asylum in Finland. Criminal charges had been filed against him for anti-Putin songs posted on YouTube and the Russian social network VK. The crime Yakolev has been charged with (calls for extremism on the internet) carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

The forensic examination in the case was performed by Andrei Pominov, a lecturer at Bashkir State University. He discovered in the lyrics to Yaklovev’s songs “psychological and linguistic means aimed at inducing an unspecified group of persons to carry out extremist actions aimed at forcibly changing the existing state system or seizing power.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

In Helsinki, Boris Yakovlev explains that revolution in Russia is inevitable given the country’s deteriorating economic, political, and social conditions.

I’ve Come to Wish You an Unhappy Birthday Because You’re Evil and You Lie

Petersburgers Congratulated Putin on His Birthday by Blocking Liteiny Avenue
Timofei Tumashevich
Activatica
October 7, 2017

An unauthorized [sic] rally of Alexei Navalny’s supporters in Petersburg turned out to be an unexpectedly serious, well-attended event. Most supporters of the unregistered candidate for the Russian presidency had expected the rally to be poorly attended. A few days before the rally, workers were replacing gravel on the Field of Mars, the announced venue for the rally. On Palace Square, a massive motorcycle rally, featuring the pro-regime motorcycle club Night Wolves, drew hundreds of bikers.

73b04ddf8a04872203eefc05a3524576.jpgMotorcycle rally on Palace Square, October 7, 2017

In addition, on October 7, an “event whose purpose [was] to inform people about society’s complicated attitude towards the homeless, orphans, and HIV-infected people” had been authorized for the Field of Mars. A few days earlier, on October 3, police had confiscated stickers promoting the rally at Navalny’s campaign office in Petersburg and detained local campaign coordinator Polina Kostyleva.

Most of all, however, activists were amused to hear announcements, broadcast through a loudspeaker, inviting people to a free screening of the patriotic blockbuster Crimea at the nearby Rodina cinema. The oppositionists greeted the announcements with laughter.

59244c58db9ad21d59070115135ee25e.jpgNavalny supporter holding the Russian flag and sporting a humorous “Navalny 2018” t-shirt on the Field of Mars in Petersburg, October 7, 2017.

def0c7749142b0d58dfe7b8faa21ee7d.jpgNavalny supporters and anti-Putin protesters milling about on the Field of Mars, Petersburg, October 7, 2017.

At 6:15 p.m., the people gathered on the Field of Mars chanted “Putin is a thief,” “Navalny,” “Freedom,” and even “Happy birthday!,” as the protest was timed to coincide wwith President Putin’s sixty-fifth birthday. On the Field of Mars itself, the protesters encountered no resistance from the numerous police officers on hand. They merely asked photographers to climb down from the walls of the memorial surrounding the eternal flame. Seemingly spontaneously, the crowd headed in the direction of Pestel Street. When the column of marchers spread out, it was obvious that no fewer than two or three thousand people were involved in the unauthorized [sic] march.

Otherwise, it would be hard to explain how the rally attendees easily managed to stop traffic on Pestel and, subsequently, on Liteiny Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in downtown Petersburg. The marchers chanted, “Down with the tsar!,” “Free Navalny!,” “We are the power here!,” “This is our city!,” and even “St. Isaac’s Cathedral is a museum!” An Interior Ministry press release would later claim that 1,800 protesters made it to Liteiny Avenue.

e4d6a553148ee96544cc0351818d185c.jpgProtesters abandoning the Field of Mars, where on June 12, 2017, around a thousand of their comrades were arrested for standing in place.

a946aaca63a568d52be8a8445b51dac4.jpgAnti-Putin protesters marching down Pestel Street, Petersburg, October 7, 2017

Police commenced to detain people roughly only at the intersection with Nekrasov Street. Police officers formed up in a line. Among the detaineed were well-known former political prisoner Ildar Dadin and photo journalist David Frenkel. Marina Bukina, an activist with the Detainees Support Group, was struck on the head by police. It has been reported that she suffered a concussion and had to have stitches. She was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Polina Kostyleva, Navalny’s campaign manager in Petersburg, was once again detained by police. Georgy Alrubov, an employee of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, reported his own arrest on Twitter. A number of bloggers have reported that Alrubov arrived on the Field of Mars only after most of the other protesters had left.

3ad7563e56f3afd1978de1845b1d9d7e.jpgPolice forming a line on Liteiny Avenue

230bedd31bb91e0acc010a06eb1ec73f.jpgReporter David Frenkel during his arrest by police. He was later released from the paddy wagon.

Nevertheless, the police line on Liteiny was unable to shut down the protest march completely. Activists bypassed the roadblock by taking side streets and regrouped on Insurrection Square on the plaza near the entrance to the Galereya shopping center.  Several hundred people made it there. At approximately 8:05 p.m., announcements were made inside the shopping center that it was closing immediately due to “technical difficulties.” A mob of shoppers flooded out of the shopping center and mixed with the protesters.

bfe608b4e6bc970293ab9737c6235142.jpgProtester outside Galereya shopping center: “No to Moscow Fascism. Putin, go away! We’re going in a different direction.”

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Protesters, press, and police confront each other on Ligovsky Avenue, outside the Galereya shopping center and Moscow Station. Petersburg, October 7, 2017

Maxim Reznik, an MP in the city’s Legislative Assembly, was on hand for the rally.

“I gather that people headed spontaneously from the Field of Mars to Insurrection Square. This is the main problem, in fact. The regime itself has done everything it can to let the situation get out of control. Since they don’t allow people  to assemble and arrest the organizers, people will take to the streets where they will,” the MP told Activatica.

Reznik personally witnessed the most serious incident outside Galereya. An unknown provocateur threw a beer bottle at a police officer. Subsequently, a fight broke out between people in civilian clothing. Protesters suggested the provocation was incited by plainclothes policemen. [That is certainly how it appeared on Radio Svoboda’s live stream coverage of the eventTRR.]

1544a6490e22855fbbbef43e3a120d7e.jpgFight outside Galereya shopping center between person unknown, some of whom were probably plainclothes policeman.

Around 10 p.m, a group of protesters decided to assemble again, this time on Palace Square, where the concert portion of the motorcycle rally had wrapped up. Around a hundred people came to the square. There was a discussion on certain Telegram channels whether they should spend the night there.

At least forty people were detained during the protests in Petersburg. Two workers in Navalny’s Petersburg campaign office who were detained at the protest have been fined 40,000 rubles each [approx. 585 euros].

Interfax reports that a woman who lived on Kolokolnaya Street, in downtown Petersburg, died waiting for an ambulance due to the fact that Navalny supporters partially blocked traffic on several central streets. [In a post published yesterday on Facebook, reporter David Frenkel explained why this report sounds implausible—TRR.]

2bfdfaf4cc84c0fb9fd7d67013fd82dd.jpgProtester holds photo of President Putin aloft outside Galereya shopping center. In Russian tradition, the black ribbon indicates the person in the picture has just died.

Alexei Navalny’s supporters held rallies in eighty Russian cities on October 7. Navalny himself was arrested in early October and sentenced to twenty days in jail for urging people to attending an unauthorized [sic] rally and meeting in Nizhny Novgorod.

Protesters outside Galereya shopping center shouting slogans and waving flyers that read, “Navalny 2018.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. All photos courtesy of Timofei Tumashevich/Activatica

Alexei Navalny and Two Million Catalonians

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Two million Catalonians

Russian anti-corruption crusader and opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 20 days in the slammer for “repeated appeals to take part in unauthorized rallies.

That “repeated appeals” business sounds like a particularly pernicious crime.

What is the difference between messing with Navalny this way constantly and beating Catalonians over the head?

I don’t see any.

Or, actually, I do.

At the end of the day, after the Madrid government’s fine performance in Catalonia yesterday, with the whole world watching, the Catalonians might get what a lot of them seem to want: independence.

But they will get it, if they do, because millions of them have united and fought for it.

Alexei Navalny, on the other hand, has to pretend to be “two million Catalonians” all on his lonesome.

“Russia will be free” someday, but at the moment only Navalny and a handful of his countrymen want to act in a concerted, deliberate way to end the Putinist tyranny.

Everyone else is—to tell you the truth, I don’t know what they are.

What they definitely are not (at least, so far) is “two million Catalonians.”

So, my reaction to the savage behavior of the Spanish police yesterday would definitely not be to gloat and suggest the police in so-called democratic countries are worse.

Actually, the police in Russia are much worse.

When push comes to shove, they wouldn’t hesitate to outdo their Spanish colleagues. And in any case there is a whole army of police, investigators, and prosecutors in Russia who could only be termed “political” police, because they spend all or most of their working days pursuing, interrogating, framing, trying, and imprisoning various “extremists.”

Tell me this hasn’t had a totally chilling effect on grassroots politics in Russia. It has. Why else would I, more or less a nobody, personally know so many Russians who have fled the country in fear of arrest and persecution or because they had simply been prevented by government agencies like the Justice Ministry, Center “E”, the FSB, and the Investigative Committee from doing the social justice or political activism they had been doing in their own native land for years?

But Russians are people like everybody else, and people sometimes are way too inclined to let their country’s powers that be off the hook, when they should be fighting them in the streets like “two million Catalonians.” TRR

Thanks to Erik Syring for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of Life on the Left

 

Being a Farmer in Karelia Is Not Easy

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Karelian Farmer Mikhail Zenzin. His placard reads, “For the government’s rotten work a rotten harvest from a grateful farmer.” Photo courtesy of Gleb Yarovoi/7X7

Farmer Brings Rotten Berries to Picket Outside Karelia’s Government House
Gleb Yarovoi
7X7
September 6, 2017

On September 6, Mikhail Zenzin, a farmer from Karelia’s Onega District, held a solo picket outside the Karelian government house in Petrozavodsk, the republic’s capital. The man arrived at the building carrying a box of rotten berries and a placard that read, “For the government’s rotten work a rotten harvest from a grateful farmer,” our correspondent reported from the site of the picket.

Several minutes later, a young woman emerged from government house to talk to Zenzin. She invited him to the reception room of the region’s head, where he was able to make an appointment to meet with the head in October 2017. Officials did not accept Zenzin’s gift of berries, and the farmer was forced to discard them.

According to Zenzin, being a farmer in Karelia is no easy task. He says he sees only interference from the state, but would like to receive help. Since spring 2017, he has tried on several occasions to obtain a permit to sell his produce in Petrozavodsk, but so far he has been unsuccessful.

“Karelia needs a farmer’s market. The one held in October is trivial. People grow a lot of produce, but we cannot sell it outside, since the issue of street trading has not been settled yet. There was a decree in April of this year that allocated three plots in Petrozavodsk for the sale of produce, but they had to be purchased through an auction. All over the world, farmers transport their produce to town and sell it freely. In May, I wrote to Artur Parfenchikov, acting head of Karelia, and asked him how farmers were supposed to sell their produce, but I got no reply from him. Instead, I got the run-around from the Agriculture Ministry, who wrote to me that I should contact the retail chains and ask to sell my produce on their premises. I tried to meet with Parfenchikov during office hours. I called his reception office, where I was told the head received the general public once a quarter, and so I was turned down. If I had known he would refuse to debate the issue, I would have brought my berries to Petrozavodsk long ago and dumped them on the steps of government house,” said Zenzin.

This was not Zenzin’s first protest. For several years, he held similar pickets outside Karelian government house and the Karelian Nature Ministry. In the spring of 2013, he held a picket outside the Karelian Natural Resources and Environment Ministry because Ladva Forest Holding, Ltd., had begun clear-cutting a thirteen-acre land plot that had been transferred to the farmer in perpetuity.

In 2014, Zenzin held a solo picket outside government house and went on a hunger strike. As the farmer told the Forest Website, for several years he had been unable  to farm and develop nature tourism in the vicinity of the village of Ladva-Vetka, because the tenant of the area’s forest reserves, Ladva Forest Holding, Ltd., had damaged the road by which Zenzin reached his own plot.

Zenzin doused himself with water in sub-zero temperatures outside the Karelian Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, thus symbolizing how the republic had put small business on ice. A month later, Zenzin, who lives in Ladva-Vetka, was once again outside government house, but this time he had a noose around his neck and a placard that read, “With a man like this running the republic, Karelian small business can only put its head in a noose.” In 2015, Zenzin stood in the way of logging equipment and prevented loggers from cutting down the forest.

According to Zenzin, the issue was resolved in 2016 after Oleg Telnov, ex-deputy head of Karelia, personally intervened.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up

Trucker Andrei Bazhutin: “We Want to Change the System”

OPR Leader Andrei Bazhutin Picketing in Yoshkar-Ola: “Until 2015, I Also Sat and Watched TV”
Dmitry Lyubimov
7X7
August 1, 2017

The Association of Russian Carriers (OPR) picketed Nikonov Square in Yoshkar-Ola on July 31. The picket was part of a cross-country road rally, led by OPR chair and trucker Andrei Bazhutin. On June 14, he announced his candidacy for the Russian presidency. A 7X7 correspondent attended the picket.

Several picketers arrived on Nikonov Square at 7 p.m., bearing placards. Local OPR members held banners that were more informational, while road rally participants held up smaller banners sporting slogans such as “Plato Won’t Save the Roads, It’s Only for Oligarchs,” and “Stop Lying, Stealing, and Fighting Wars.”

Picketer bearing a t-shirt that reads, “Popular Movement for Housing. Together We’ll Take Back Our Abode. #ForHousing. ndza.ru.”

Several members of the Popular Movement for Housing (NDZA) joined the road rally. Andrei Svistunov, civic activist and founder of an independent trade union, came out to support the truckers with colleagues and friends from the local Alexei Navalny campaign headquarters.

“We have never been in government, and we have no ties with any oligarchs. We’re ordinary people,” said Andrei Bazhutin. “We want to change the system. We don’t have rose-tinted glasses. We realize our road is a hard road. We’ll see what obstacles they throw in our path. Until 2015, I also sat and watched TV. I went on trucking runs and watched TV. Nowadays, I don’t watch it at all. I trust the internet, but only partly. Here we are, outside, among people. Everywhere the doors have been slammed shut in our face. Our association has tried to make contact with the government and the president’s staff. The people in our association are grown men, and they’ve been through their share of hot spots. We own our own big rigs. People know who we are, and that’s a good thing.”

Andrei Bazhutin, chair of the Association of Russian Carriers (ORP)

The road rally has taken place in an abbreviated form. Previously, big rigs were involved in it, but now the convoy consists of only two cars and a minibus. Residents of Murmansk, Vologda, Tver, Moscow, and St. Petersburg have been involved in the rally. It has been paid for by participants themselves and private donors. During their meetings with the people in the towns where they stop, the truckers talk about different problems, including housing and hoodwinked investors in cooperative residential buildings.

“Initially, the Communists actively supported us. I met with Vladimir Rodin and Valery Rashkin, CPRF MPs in the State Duma. But they probably will not keep supporting us in the future, since we talk about the fact that Russia’s current party-based political system is rotten to the core. We are categorically opposed to the structure that has now been established in Russia. We believe the future lies with social movements, who must nominate grassroots candidates. That is probably the most positive know-how from the late-period Soviet Union that we can borrow. Power must rotate,” argues Bazhutin.

According to Bazhutin, the interests of the OPR and Alexei Navalny intersect, and the truckers are involved in his protest rallies. At pickets in Moscow, the drivers pasted placards with images of rubber duckies on their trucks. (The rubber ducky is a symbol of the “Don’t Call Him Dimon” campaign, whose supporters demand that authorities respond to the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s video exposé of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.)

Anti-Corruption Foundation, Don’t Call Him Dimon: Palaces, Yachts, and Vineyards—Dmitry Medvedev’s Secret Empire. YouTube video, with subtitles in English. Posted March 2, 2017, by Alexei Navalny

“2015 was the year of our camp in Khimki: our entire movement was launched there. Navalny filed a petition in the Commercial Court to reveal the terms of the public-private partnership agreement [establishing the Plato road tolls system], and many of our guys attended the hearing. Navalny wanted to visit our camp. But our goal was to keep the camp up and running, and if Navalny had shown up, we didn’t know whether it would have a positive or negative impact. So we turned him down. It led to a slight misunderstanding. Nowadays, we don’t say that Navalny has been going about things the wrong way. We see circumstances slightly differently. This concerns, for example, a united candidate from the opposition. He might not make it to the election. Those comrades over there [Bazhutin points to the law enforcement officers keeping an eye on the picket] might not allow it. If there is no such candidate, then what is left? We need candidates representing movements and grassroots organizations. Let ordinary folk nominate their own candidates. We shall see. Let them get themselves registered, and then we’ll decide whom to support,” said Bazhutin.

The truckers of the OPR have been on an indefinite strike since March 27. They have made six demands, including sacking the current government and expressing no confidence in the Russian president, to abolishing the Plato road tolls system and recalculating the excise tax on fuel.

The next stop on OPR’s road rally is Nizhny Novgorod.

All photos by Anna Pyatak and courtesy of 7X7. See the rest of her photos from the picket by clicking on the link to the original article, above. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up