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

Defenders of the Fatherland: “Say When You’ve Had Enough”

"Happy February 23rd!"
“Happy February 23rd!”

Leda Garina
Facebook
February 23

On February 23, female feminists spoke out—finally!—in defense of men.

The Eternal Flame, Field of Mars, Petersburg
The Eternal Flame, Field of Mars, Petersburg

“We think the very idea of ‘defenders’ is one of the pillars of oppression, whether ethnic, gender or whatever other kind. From the time they are babies, men are inculcated with the notion that they must be defenders. Actually, however, they are merely taught to behave aggressively and completely suppress their emotions. And they grow up as people prone to exercise violence and control. They become cogs used by those in power, dogs who have been taught a single command: ‘attack.’

“We believe society must change, that a more humane society is a sign of progress. Armies and armed conflicts must become things of the past, like human sacrifice and the bonfires of the Inquisition. Like the first winged chimeras, which had been built but still could not fly.”

"Say When You've Had Enough"
“Say When You’ve Had Enough”

Photos by David Frenkel. Translated by the Russian Reader

Petersburg: Where Fascists Roam the Streets at Will

NODite who assaulted Petersburg reporter David Frenkel yesterday in plain sight of several witnesses, including policemen standing nearby. Photo courtesy of David Frenkel
NODite who assaulted Petersburg reporter David Frenkel yesterday in plain sight of several witnesses, including policemen standing nearby. Photo courtesy of David Frenkel

David Frenkel
Facebook
December 12, 2016

I read in the news what happened to me today [Sunday]. I was surprised by a lot of what I read and decided to write my own account.

I had been taking pictures of an unauthorized LGBT march in support of social and labor protests on Nevsky Prospect. The march ended in the Catherine Garden. After it was over, some of the activists, who had folded up their banners and placards, and the journalists crossed the street to Malaya Sadovaya, where the National Liberation Movement (NOD) were holding a rally. The NODites and activists got into a war of words, and I pulled out my my camera. In particular, I photographed a colorful NODite in a fur hat who immediately hit my camera before kicking me several times (One of the blows was captured on Arseniy Vesnin’s video). The NODites also shouted that I was a “little Yid.”

The NODites often insult other people and let their fists and feet do the talking (the most striking example was the attack on Arseniy Vesin himself), and I asked the policemen standing nearby whether they could do something about the assailant. They refused to register my complaint, and so I called for a police patrol to come to the scene. They arrived very quickly, but they refused either to detain the assailant or even check his papers. Instead, they checked my papers. After I asked them repeatedly, they finally gave me a pen and paper so I could file a complaint.

When I had finished writing the complaint, it transpired the NODite had already escaped. I was told I could go to the police precinct [to file the complaint] whenever I liked. I stepped away to discuss with Arseniy whether it was worth going to the precinct right then. The police came over to me and said one of the female NODites had filed a complaint against me for attempting to disrupt their authorized rally. The police took me to the 78th precinct, on Chekhov Street.

At the station, the police almost immediately drew up papers stating I had been delivered to the precinct, and then I went to give testimony about my own complaint. Initially, everything was cool, only they kept asking me questions about the LGBT rally. How had I found out about it? How had I met with them? Where had been going?

I refused to answer these questions. The police responded by asking me whether I was in my right mind. Then the deputy commander of the precinct showed up. First, he demanded I turned off my phone (I refused), and then he came down hard on me, saying I was not a journalist, that I could not prove I worked for Kommersant.  (I really did not have my ID on me, but I had contacted the editors, and I knew they had telephoned the precinct and confirmed my testimony.)

The deputy commander kept “poking” me, saying I had no respect for the authorities, elders, and the police. I agreed with this, reminding that my assailant had not been detained. When our argument turned more emotional, he threatened to call an ambulance brigade to check my mental competence. Then he left.

The police finished taking my testimony and left me to wait, god knows for what. The whole time Varya Mikhailova and my dad were at the front desk. They were told I had not been detained, but delivered to the police station, and that I would be released any minute now. Arseniy Vesnin, who had testified that the NODite had assaulted me and had tried to give his video to the police, was also at the station.

For a while, nothing happened. Then suddenly an ambulance brigade showed up. They immediately grabbed my papers from the table. When I protested, they told me to move to another chair. I had been sitting right under the surveillance camera and for my own safety I didn’t want to move to another chair, which I told them. So they tried to move me by force. When I resisted, the doctor attempted to strangle me, and two orderlies twisted my fingers and tried to tie my hands with a tourniquet. Yet they could not manage to move me to another chair. I stayed where I was. They also tried to confiscate my camera bag, which I held onto with my elbows. I said they would take it away from me over my dead body.

“No problem,” they replied.

The whole time I was shouting and calling for help, but the police were laughing and filming the incident on video.

Meanwhile, the orderlies whispered in my ear that they would “fuck [me] up” and “kick [me] in the balls.” Just like the NODites, the medics made fun of the fact I was Jewish. They asked me something about the “Christmas seder” (?) and made several jokes about circumcision.

As I learned later, the deputy precinct commander was chatting with my father while this was going in. The policeman was trying to persuade Dad I was a “difficult boy.” He asked him something about fights, alcohol, and drugs. He said I was behaving inappropriately: I was, allegedly, sitting hunched up and constantly making phone calls. The doctor later told my father that I had not been taken away to the insane asylum only because he, my father, had turned up at the precinct.

After half an hour of “conversing” with the medics, the sense of which I still have not figured out, I was untied and released from the precinct. The misdemeanor charges filed against me by the female NODite were dropped.

At the trauma bay, the bruises on my neck and arms, and the scrapes and scratches on my fingers were photographed and registered.

Such is the work of a journalist. I’ll post the report from the march a bit later.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Shredding the Russian Constitution in Broad Daylight

"Irina Yarovaya" tears up Russian Constitution, Petersburg, July 4, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel
Russian MP “Irina Yarovaya” shreds Russian Constitution. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

“Irina Yarovaya” Shreds Russian Constitution in Downtown Petersburg
Spring Movement (Dvizhenie “Vesna”)
July 4, 2016

This past Sunday, “Irina Yarovaya” shred the Russian Constitution on Nevsky Prospect in Petersburg. The people’s deputy was joined by characters from her package of “anti-terrorist” laws, who had come to life for the occasion: a postal worker vetting packages, a secret policeman wiretapping a light-minded young lady’s telephone conversations, and an involved ordinary citizen encouraging passersby to write denunciations on their friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

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“Postal worker” vets suspicious parcels. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

The activists of the Spring Movement thus attempted to draw the attention of their fellow Petersburgers to the flagrantly repressive amendments to the Russian Criminal Code, tabled by a group of MPs led by Irina Yarovaya and now approved by both houses of the Russian parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council.

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Passerby fills out “denunciation” form. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

The package of amendments will not only deal a blow to our country’s constitutional foundations but will also require huge financial subsidies during tough economic times. The screws will be tightened at our expense, at the price of impassable roads, hospitals and kindergartens that will never be built, and pension savings that the state has been confiscating once again. No scientific progress, no innovations, and no quality education are in the cards for our country: only Yarovaya and her hardcore approach to lawmaking.

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“Secret policeman” wiretaps an unsuspecting young lady’s phone conversation. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

If the president signs the Yarovaya package into law, “non-informing” will be criminalized, “inducing, recruiting or otherwise involving” others in the “organization of mass disturbances” will be punishable by prison terms, punishment for “extremist” posts on the web and monitoring of personal correspondence will become harsher, and postal workers will be obliged to vigorously vet parcels for prohibited items.

Translated by the Russian Reader. All photos by David Frenkel

Walk

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Walk, May 29, 2016, Saint Petersburg, Russia. The city’s famous Church on Spilled Blood is in the background. Photo by David Frenkel

Varya Mikhaylova
Vkontakte
May 29, 2016

Petersburg female activists have staged the performance Walk to call for a humane attitude towards women involved in the sex industry, the prosecution of pimps, and the decriminalization of prostitutes themselves.

Wearing dresses pasted over with advertising flyers for brothels, and sporting painted bruises and black eyes, the five female performers were marched by a “pimp” through downtown Petersburg.

The young women bore placards on their backs featuring such quotations from real interviews with prostitutes as “I have always been raped, now I’m getting raped for money,” and “We are not human beings to them.”

"My rate is 1,300 rubles an hour. I get paid a 100 rubles." // "We are not human beings to them."
“My rate is 1,300 rubles an hour. I get paid a 100 rubles.” // “We are not human beings to them.” Photo by David Frenkel

On Arts Square, the young women slipped away from the supervision of their “pimp.” They turned their placards arounds, revealing the inscriptions “Not a commodity,” “Not a thing,” “Not a criminal,” “Not a slave,” and “Human being.”

At this point, the other performers, depicting prosperous citizens who have a contemptuous attitude towards prostitutes and their problems, shouted angrily at the young women and pelted them with dirt.

Rapes, beatings, fear, constant threats to their lives, no protection from law enforcement, a lack of medical care, and endless public scorn: these are the real lives hidden by brightly colored flyers advertising “Masha,” “Sevinch,” “Girls,” “Relaxation,” and “Massages.”

Prostitutes lead closed and stigmatized lives. Our prosperous society is irritated more by the flyers and ads that disfigure our beautiful city than by the slavery and human trafficking occurring behind its disfigured façades.

The recent raid by “defender of morals” Vyacheslav Datsik has returned the subject of sexual slavery, which society and the media persist in calling “sex work” to the public discourse and underscored the fact that society has no sympathy for these women. It only feels contempt for them. If Datsik had forced any other women to walk naked down the street, everyone would have been up in arms. But prostitutes are not people. No one cares about their misfortunes.

Datsik has even seemed like a savior to many people, because he liberated the residents of a building from a brothel. And indeed, although brothels operate outside the law, politicians and policemen are also involved in the profitable business of selling women. So complaints against brothels filed by ordinary people are ignored and drown in bureaucratic rigmarole. However, a new brothel will open to replace the one Datsik, allegedly, shut down. And it will be that way until there is the political will to denounce and prosecute the people who trick and force women into slavery and sell their customers the right to violence. People should realize that the last thing they should do is blame the prostitutes themselves. They should stop seeing these women as criminals.

Pay attention to the slaves who live invisibly in our midst. And don’t call them “workers.” But do call them human beings.

Walking past St. Catherine’s Catholic Church on Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main drag. Photo by David Frenkel
Walking past the Chamber Concert Hall of the Petersburgh Philharmonic (right) and a poster advertising a “gala concert” celebrating the 140th anniversary of the translation of the Russian Synodal Version of the Bible by the Russian Orthodox Church. Oddly, the concert was held on May 26 at nearby St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Photo by David Frenkel
Walking past the entrance to the city’s premier hotel, the Grand Hotel Europe. Photo by David Frenkel
Enraged “citizens” pelt the “prostitutes” with dirt.
“Human being.” // “Not a criminal.” // “Not a thing.” Photo by David Frenkel
“Not a commodity.” // “Not a slave.” Photo by David Frenkel
“Igor is married but goes to prostitutes because his wife is not willing to give him the humiliating, painful sex he likes, which one can only endure out of fear or for money.” // “Yulduz does not speak Russian and does not understand how to escape from the brothel. Human trafficking is a global problem.” // “Round-the-clock rape for money. Using another person’s body to masturbate while ignoring their needs is rape.” Flyers handed out to passersby during the performance Walk. Photo by Ksenia Chapkevich

Translated by the Russian Reader. For more on this subject, see my post “Let’s (Not) Talk about Sex,” from December 2014.

Petersburg Truckers Say No to Plato

Petersburg Truckers Say No to Plato
David Frenkel
Special to the Russian Reader
November 27, 2015

On November 24, Petersburg truckers joined protests against the new levies imposed heavy tonnage cargo trucks known as the Plato payment system, which have sparked unprecedented work stoppages and other protests by Russian truckers nationwide.

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ATTENTION! PLATO (a system for charging a levy for every kilometer driven). Did you know that? 1) It went into effect for cargo vehicles on November 15, 2015. This means a 15-30% rise in prices for everything in the Russian Federation. 2) It goes into effect on May 1, 2016, for vehicles with a cargo capacity over 3.5 tones. This means a rise in prices of 10-20%. 3) It goes into effect for passenger vehicles in 2018. Moreover, the motor vehicle tax and fuel excise tax remain in effect. Think hard about this!

Alexander Rastorguyev, leader of the TIGR (Association of Go-Getting Russian Citizens) movement, and Sergei Gulyayev, an ex-deputy of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, both known for their opposition politics, inspired local truckers to launch a “snail” protest convoy.

gulyayev and rastorguyev
Sergei Gulyayev (left, in black) and Alexander Rastorguyev (right, in yellow vest)

The truckers took off in two separate convoys on parallel streets, Moscow Highway and Sofia Street, at 11 a.m. Shortly afterwards, another group of trucks joined them, increasing the number of slowly moving trucks to three hundred.

The truckers held a spontaneous rally on Sofia Street, where Rastorguyev urged them to keep driving to the Smolny, Petersburg city hall, where the authorities would “listen to them.”

During the rally, a tire was set on fire, an obvious reference to the Euromaidan protests.

The truckers slowly moved onto the Petersburg Ring Road, paralyzing traffic in the streets. The convoy was led by a group of cars plastered with anti-Plato posters. Traffic police regularly stopped the drivers, although no one was detained.

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“‘Plato’ Rotenberg!!! You have aroused an angry driver!!! We demand that the extortionate levy be abolished!!! Driver mutiny”

While the truckers made their way to the Smolny, authorities negotiated with protest leaders. The authorities warned the trucks would paralyze the downtown and suggested that truckers choose six delegates to negotiate with a deputy governor in his office another part of the downtown.

The truckers, however, did not want to elect delegates. They wanted a meeting directly with authorities at the Smolny and as an entire group.

Around thirty truckers finally reached the gates to the Smolny, although they had to leave their trucks on the other side of the Neva River. They gathered around the entrance and waited for officials to come out and negotiate with them. They waited in vain.

The gates to the Smolny, Petersburg city hall
The gates to the Smolny, Petersburg city hall

They stood and talked among themselves for about an hour until police arrived. A police officer demanded they disperse and organize a legal rally instead. Claiming they had not “come for a revolution,” they decided to give the authorities a chance, promising to organize a snail convoy to Moscow if their demands were not fulfilled in the coming days.

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All photos by and courtesy of David Frenkel

Read my previous posts on the new Plato cargo haulage levy system and protests by Russian truckers:

Remembering Timur Kacharava Ten Years Later

timur-1
Timur Kacharava, 1985-2005

Remembering Timur Kacharava Ten Years Later
David Frenkel
Special to the Russian Reader
November 17, 2015

On the evening of November 13, 2015, more than fifty people gathered near the Bukvoyed bookstore on Ligovsky Prospect in the Vosstaniya Square area of downtown Petersburg to mourn anti-fascist and hardcore punk musician Timur Kacharava, who was murdered at the spot ten years earlier by Russian neo-Nazis.

Mourners gathered at the site of Kacharava's murder on Ligovsky Prospect
Mourners gathered at the site of Kacharava’s murder on Ligovsky Prospect

In 2005, Kacharava and a friend were attacked by a group of young men after participating in a Food Not Bombs action in another part of the downtown. Kacharava was stabbed in the neck five times and died at the scene.

Kacharava’s murder alarmed certain segments of Russian society. Over three thousand students at Saint Petersburg State University, where Kacharava had been majoring in philosophy at the time of his slaying, petitioned President Putin to find and punish the murderers.

timur-3

In December 2005, police arrested seven suspects who eventually confessed to the crime. In 2007, Alexander Shabalin was sentenced to twelve years in prison on charges of murder and incitement to ethnic or racial hatred. The other suspects were charged with inciting social hatred and sentenced to two or three years in prison. (Three of them were released on parole).

Since 2005, people have come to the crime scene every year on November 13 with flowers, candles, and pictures of Timur.

timur-4

This year, police did not interfere with the mourners, although they asked them to remove pictures from the parapet and not to shout out any slogans.

Photographs by and courtesy of David Frenkel