No Placards

“While you’re celebrating and watching football, the prisons are filling up with political prisoners.”

Woman, Prison, Society
Facebook
June 26, 2021

NO PLACARDS ALLOWED
While its hospitals are overflowing with covid-19 patients, and photos of mass events and celebration in Petersburg are making the rounds of the media, solo pickets are still prohibited in the city. Marina Shiryaeva and Yevgenia Smetankina were taken to a police station yesterday for violating health restrictions, that is, for placards demanding the release of political prisoners.

According to MBKh Media, the young women held up pieces of cardboard containing the messages “I’m not waiting for a prince at Crimson Sails, I’m waiting for all political prisoners to be released,” and “While you’re celebrating and watching football, the prisons are filling up with political prisoners.”

Based on an article at m.123ru.net. Photo courtesy of m.123.ru.net. Thanks to Maria Mila for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ivan Pavlov: Thanks!

Russian human rights lawyer outside the Basmanny District Court in Moscow yesterday. Photo courtesy of his Telegram channel

Dear friends, colleagues, and allies!

This is Ivan Pavlov.

Yesterday was not an easy day for me, my family and the team. At 6 a.m., my friend Igor Dorfman had his door broken down. His apartment was searched for eight hours, and he was interrogated by the FSB. The Team 29 office was searched until nightfall.

But despite the fact that I have been restricted in my access to all means of communication, I am still with you.

My Facebook page has been temporarily blocked for security reasons. My Telegram channel will be run by my team. And this message has been written by Yevgeny Smirnov, who spent the whole day alongside me.

The team’s media resources will continue to function, publishing the latest news and features, because openness to the press and freedom of information have always been a priority for us. This, by the way, has always irritated our opponents a great deal.

The attack on me and my team is, of course, revenge for our work, for our principled stance, for our involvement in high-profile criminal cases run by the Russian FSB’s investigative department. And, of course, revenge for defending the Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by Alexei Navalny, in court. But we are not going to stop. We will keep on working and fighting. Let’s not fall to the ground before shots are fired.

Especially since my team and I felt extraordinarily strong support from journalists, human rights defenders and the public on this day. And, most importantly, from our colleagues in the legal community, who came to the rescue without unnecessary formalities.

I am grateful for this difficult day because I learned how many people support me and Team 29. This inspires an optimism that cannot be diminished by interrogations, searches and court hearings.

Thanks!
Ivan Pavlov
(via Yevgeny Smirnov)

Source: weekly Team 29 emailing. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________________

Russia targets lawyer over media comments on treason case
Daria Litvinova
Associated Press
April 30, 2021

Russian authorities have launched a criminal probe against a lawyer representing a former Russian journalist accused of treason and the team of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accusing him of disclosing information related to a police investigation.

St. Petersburg-based lawyer Ivan Pavlov told reporters Friday he was formally charged with the criminal offense, punishable by a fine, community service or detention of up to three months, after his Moscow hotel room was raided on Friday morning and he was summoned to Russia’s Investigative Committee for interrogation.

Pavlov appeared in court later Friday and was ordered not to contact witnesses in the case or to use the Internet or a cellphone.

Pavlov’s colleague, Yevgeny Smirnov, had reported that the lawyer was detained. But Pavlov’s spokesperson, Yelizaveta Alexandrova-Zorina, later clarified to the Associated Press that Pavlov formally wasn’t arrested even though he was de-facto detained in his hotel room during the search.

The Team 29 association of lawyers that Pavlov heads said on social media that its office in St. Petersburg, the apartments of one of its employees and of Pavlov’s wife, and Pavlov’s house in the countryside were also raided Friday.

Opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists have been facing increasing government pressure in Russia. Raids targeting Pavlov and his team elicited outrage in the Russian legal and human rights community, with prominent lawyers and legal aid groups calling on authorities to stop “using the law as a tool of pressure on lawyers.”

Pavlov said the accusations against him were connected to his defense of Ivan Safronov, a former Russian journalist charged with treason in a case that has been widely seen as retribution for his journalistic work. He said he was targeted because he shared information about the case with the media.

“The investigators maintain that I committed a crime when I told you, reporters, that your colleague is being unlawfully held in Lefortovo (pre-trial detention center) on absurd accusations,” the lawyer said.

Safronov, who wrote about military and security issues for a decade before becoming an adviser to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, was detained last year and accused of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence. Many journalists questioned the charges, and his former newspaper rejected them as “absurd.”

Safronov’s former colleagues alleged that authorities may have sought revenge for his reporting that exposed Russian military incidents and opaque arms trade deals. Safronov has remained in pre-trial detention since July.

Pavlov had been due to appear in a Moscow court on Friday at a hearing about extending Safronov’s pre-trial detention. The lawyer said police unlawfully seized “almost the entire dossier” of documents related to the case during the hotel raid, including those subject to attorney-client privilege.

According to his colleague Smirnov, Pavlov frequently received threats from investigators at Russia’s Security Service, or FSB, with an investigator involved in the case against the former journalist allegedly saying to the lawyer, “We’re going to do everything to put you behind bars.”

Pavlov maintained his innocence and said he considered the case against him “revenge” for his work on cases investigated by the FSB.

Smirnov told the AP that persecution of Pavlov sends a signal to all lawyers: “Don’t even think about working effectively on criminal cases. Don’t even think about speaking out. Don’t even think about defending people.”

In August, Russian media reported the FSB had lodged a complaint against Pavlov over his refusal to sign a non-disclosure statement in Safronov’s case. Pavlov said he had signed a statement not to disclose state secrets in connection with the case, but no one had asked him to sign a broader non-disclosure statement.

The case against Pavlov was opened shortly after he started representing the [Anti-Corruption Foundation], founded by President Vladimir Putin’s longtime foe, opposition leader Navalny.

This month, the Moscow prosecutor’s office petitioned the Moscow City Court to outlaw Navalny’s foundation and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. The case, expected to be heard May 17, is part of a sweeping crackdown on Navalny, his allies and his political infrastructure.

On Friday, the Rosfinmonitoring agency, which analyzes financial transactions to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, added “Public Movement of Navalny’s Headquarters” to its list of organizations involved in extremist activities or terrorism.

However, Navalny’s top strategist Leonid Volkov said no such organization exists. Rosfinmonitoring can freeze access to bank accounts and it is not clear how Friday’s move would affect Navalny’s foundation or other operations.

Navalny is currently serving time in a penal colony outside Moscow. He was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a Soviet nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials have rejected the accusations. European labs have confirmed he was poisoned.

The Rammstein Offense

Yan Shenkman
Facebook
April 29, 2021

Help me figure this out — I don’t understand. Anyone could go crazy thinking about it. I opened my news feed and read the following two items with barely a gap between them.

In Arkhangelsk, Andrei Borovikov was sentenced to two and a half years for reposting the video for Rammstein’s “Pussy” (2009).

I scrolled down the screen a bit and saw that a video by Rammstein’s leader [Till Lindemann], “Lubimy Gorod” (“Beloved Town”) had garnered almost two million views. Now it’s up two and a half (million), the same number as Borovikov’s prison sentence [of two and half years]. Most of the viewers are probably from Russia.

Till Lindemann performs “Beloved Town”

This is the classic Soviet song “Your Beloved Town Can Sleep in Peace”: many people remember it as performed by Mark Bernes. It is featured in Timur Bemkakbetov’s film V2. Escape from Hell, about the heroic Soviet fighter pilot Mikhail Devyatayev, which has just been shown at Moscow Film Festival, and everyone liked it. Till Lindemann himself attended the film’s premiere.

Mark Bernes performs “Beloved Town” 

Now correct me if I’m wrong. While Borovikov was being sentenced to prison in Arkhangelsk for sharing Rammstein, Rammstein’s lead singer was living it up at a film festival in the Russian capital, and thousands of Russians were enjoying his work. Did I get that right?

When I scrolled down even further I read that Till Lindemann had starred in a video for the anniversary of the Moscow State Circus. Meanwhile, as they say.

I’m not saying that we should put Till in jail now, along with the entire Moscow circus and the animals in it, since the party’s already started and you can’t stop it. I’m just surprised at life’s variety.

Our beloved town can sleep well, of course.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Andrei Borovikov kisses his wife outside the courthouse. Photo: Dima Shvets/Mediazona

Russian Man Gets Prison Sentence For Sharing Rammstein Video
RFE/RL
April 29, 2021

A court in northwestern Russia has sentenced a former associate of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to 2 1/2 years in prison for “distributing pornography” after he shared a video by the German rock band Rammstein in 2014, in a case Amnesty International described as “utterly absurd.”

The Lomonosovsky District Court in Arkhangelsk handed down its verdict against Andrei Borovikov, his lawyer told Russian independent media on April 29.

Amnesty International said Borovikov — a former coordinator of Navalny’s Arkhangelsk regional headquarters — was being “punished solely for his activism, not his musical taste.”

Describing Borovikov’s prosecution as “a mockery of justice,” the London-based human rights group’s Moscow office director, Natalia Zviagina, called for all charges against him to be dropped.

“The Russian authorities should be focusing on turning around the spiraling human rights crisis they have created, not devising ludicrous new ways of prosecuting and silencing their critics,” Zviagina said in a statement ahead of the verdict.

“This is not the first time the Russian authorities have used an overbroad definition of ‘pornography’ as a pretext for locking up their critics,” Zviagina said, citing the case of Yulia Tsvetkova, an LGBT activist from Russia’s Far East who stood trial earlier this month on pornography charges over her drawings of women’s bodies.

“It is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court,” Zviagina said.

The music video posted by Borovikov came to the authorities’ attention six months ago when a former volunteer at his office informed the police. Amnesty International said it suspected the volunteer was employed as an agent provocateur to help fabricate the case.

The prosecution said the video had been seen by “not fewer than two people” and ordered “a sexological and cultural examination” of the clip, before experts found it to be of “pornographic nature” and “not containing artistic value.”

Rammstein is no stranger to controversy.

In Belarus, the Council for Public Morals in 2010 protested against Rammstein’s concerts in the country that year, saying the band’s shows were “open propaganda of homosexuality, masochism, and other forms of perversions, violence, cruelty, and vulgarism.”

In 2019, a man in Belarus was charged with producing and distributing pornographic materials for posting a clip in 2014 of the band’s video Pussy, which showed graphic sex scenes.

That same year, a video for the group’s song Deutschland showed band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners, sparking outrage, especially among Jewish groups.

Yefim Khazanov: One Repost Too Many?


Yefim Khazanov. Photo: Roman Yarovitsyn/Kommersant

Yefim Khazanov, Academician of Russian Academy of Sciences, Detained in Nizhny Novgorod
Roman Ryskal
Kommersant
April 21, 2021

Yefim Khazanov, an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences and laureate of the State Prize in Science and Technology was detained in Nizhny Novgorod on Tuesday, April 20. Presumably, the reason was his reposts of information about Alexei Navalny on Facebook.

As Mr. Khazanov reported to Kommersant, he was taken to the police department in the city’s Kanavinsky district. “I was detained in the afternoon at work and brought to the police station. They said that I had written [something] about Navalny on Facebook, but I believe that I did not write [anything],” the scientist said. He added that, for the time being, he was in the lobby of the station, and the police officers had not gone through any procedures with him. Lawyer Mikhail Lipkin had gone to the department to represent the physicist.

Mr. Khazanov’s page on the social network contains reposts of information from Alexei Navalny from the [penal] colony, an appeal by human rights defenders to Vladimir Putin about the convicted person’s [sic] condition, as well as posts by Leonid Volkov about the state of health of the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK, entered in the register of foreign agents). The police have not yet commented on Khazanov’s detention.

Yefim Khazanov is a Russian experimental physicist who specializes in creating laser systems. In 2008, he was elected a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Department of Physical Sciences. In 2012, he was awarded the Russian Federation Government Prize for his work creating a petawatt laser system. In 2018, he was awarded the Russian Federation State Prize for establishing the basic foundations of and devising instrumental solutions to the problem of registering gravitational waves.

Thanks to EZ and others for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Our Thaw

Sergei Yolkin, “Thaw.” Courtesy of RFE/RL via Radikal.ru

Our Thaw: a fair court decision as evidence of a catastrophe
The cautionary tale of an “extremist” comment
Ivan Davydov
Republic
April 11, 2021

Let’s start with the good news: “The Kalinin District Court of St. Petersburg refused to grant investigators their request to place under house arrest a local resident accused of exonerating terrorism. This was reported on Friday by the joint press service of the city’s courts. The court imposed a preventive measure against the defendant, Alexander Ovchinnikov, by forbidding him from doing certain things until June 6. In particular, Ovchinnikov is not allowed to leave his apartment between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am, to be in places where mass public events are held and to use the internet.”

We should make it clear that we are talking about a terrible state criminal: “The 48-year-old Ovchinnikov was detained on April 7. Law enforcement agencies believe that in August 2020 he posted ‘comments justifying terrorism’ on the RT News in Russian community page on VKontakte.”

First, let us note the uncharacteristic humanity exhibited by the investigators in the case. They could have tried to get Ovchinnikov remanded in custody for such actions, but no, they reined themselves in and only sought house arrest for the perp. Second, this really is good news. The court refused to put Citizen Ovchinnikov under house arrest, deigning instead only to slightly complicate his life. Staying at home at night is much better than staying at home all the time. And sitting around with no internet is incomparably better than sitting in jail.

The court did not make a cannibalistic ruling at all – another reason to rejoice!

When hearing such news, it is customary to joke, “It’s the Thaw all over again.” And also to say (just as jocularly), “Another victory for civil society!” But in this particular case, the second joke is not particularly appropriate. Civil society was not interested in Ovchinnikov’s plight, and no one made any effort to fight for his freedom.

This does not mean that the criminal will escape punishment: the investigators are working, and the court is waiting. There is a good possibility that for his terrible acts (“committed using the media or electronic or information and telecommunications networks, including the internet”), Ovchinnikov could face a heavy fine measuring in the millions of rubles (it’s the going thing nowadays: the big bosses would do not agree to less — times are difficult, the state coffers are empty, people are the new petroleum) or even a stint in prison.

The price of meekness
To be honest, I don’t know what kind of comment Citizen Ovchinnikov left on “RT’s official page.” It is quite possible that it was something stupid. And this is a telling aspect of the story: as part of my job, I have to keep track of trending news via feeds from the wire services. A few years ago, Ovchinnikov would have been a star. All the sane outlets would have written indignantly that a person was being tried for a social media comment. The insane outlets would have written something like, “A dangerous accomplice of terrorists was neutralized by valiant law enforcement officers in the president’s hometown.” We would know, perhaps, not only what exactly Alexander Ovchinnikov did to upset Margarita Simonyan’s underlings, but also all the details of his biography.

Nowadays, however, Ovchinnikov’s case is routine. There are dozens of such cases underway, and you can’t keep track of all of them. A story like this would only arouse interest if a more or less well-known person was under attack. Or the context would matter. We shouldn’t forget that among the criminal cases opened in the wake of January’s pro-Navalny protests, there are two that directly involve social network posts – the so-called Sanitary Case* and the “Involving Minors in Unauthorized Protests” Case. People will be put on trial, and they will be sentenced to prison, fines or probation.

The lack of public interest is understandable and even, perhaps, excusable. But it says a lot about how the Russian state and Russian society have mutated. Everyone regards cases like Ovchinnikov’s as commonplace. Meanwhile, the powers that be have usurped the right to punish people for their words, including words that are obviously insignificant. (Terrorism, of course, is a disgusting thing, but it is unlikely that a comment, even on the page of a propaganda TV channel, will somehow contribute particularly strongly to the success of world terrorism, and I assure you that those who are eager to jail people for social media comments also get this.) The authorities have come up with a lot of different reasons to punish people for their words. Thousands of specialists are busy searching for the wrong words, lives are broken, and careers are made.

But for us civilians it has also become commonplace. We have got used to it, recognized the right of the authorities to do as they like, and stopped being particularly indignant.

When the state is focused on lawlessness, norms are shaped not by deliberately repressive laws, but by our willingness to put up with how they are applied.

Norms and savagery
Fining or jailing people for the comments they make on social networks is savage, after all. Savage but normal. In a short while we’ll be telling ourselves that it’s always been like this. For the time being, however, searching the homes of opposition activists’ parents who have nothing to do with their children’s activism, interrogating journalists and political activists in the middle of the night, and torturing detainees after peaceful protests do not seem to be the norm. But it’s a matter of time — that is, a matter of habit. None of these things have sparked outsized outrage, so they too will become the norm.

But I have a sense that harsh crackdowns on peaceful protests have almost become the norm. What is surprising is when the security forces behave like human beings, as was the case during the Khabarovsk protests, for example. You mean the police didn’t break up the demo? What do you mean, they didn’t beat you? Was something the matter?

I remember how I was struck by a news item reported by state-controlled wire services after the first rally in support of Sergei Furgal: a little girl was lost in the crowd, and the National Guard helped her find her parents. The cops did their jobs, for a change, and that was amazing. The normal performance of their duties by the security forces looked like something completely crazy. Going back to the beginning of our conversation, we are now surprised when a court makes an utterly meaningless ruling that is not at all cannibalistic. It’s the Thaw all over again!

The norm looks wild, and wildness is the norm. So, perhaps, it is possible to describe where the Putinist state has arrived in its political devolution over the past few years. This is its supreme accomplishment.

If we follow the dictionary definitions, we should conclude there has been no state in Russia for some time. This is a different, new growth, and it is most likely malignant.

But this only works in one case – if society capitulates. A creepy monster like ours can only flourish in the ruins of society.

P.S. A trenchant critic might object: as if “they” do not have such a thing — putting people on trial for their words, and persecute for comments. Yes, it happens, of course, it happens. The most democratic of the democratic countries are not averse to biting off a little piece of their people’s freedoms, while grassroots activists, militants guided by the loftiest ideals, are happy to trample on other people’s freedom, and new centers of power, like the social networks, do not want to lag behind.

Recently, Facebook blocked a page run by a group of Moscow amateur historians who posted a text about the capital’s Khokhlovka district for a month for “hate speech.” Try to guess why. [Because “Khokhlovka” sounds similar to “khokhly,” a derogatory term for Ukrainians — TRR.]

Yes, in some sense, the Motherland, having made it a matter of policy to distance itself from the wider world, is following a global trend, however strange that may sound. Well, so much the worse for “them.” And for us. It is thus all the more important to remember how valuable freedom is.

* “The Sanitary Case is a series of criminal cases initiated for alleged violations sanitary and epidemiological norms during the January 23, 2021, protests in Moscow. It has been recognized by human rights defenders as part of the ongoing political crackdown in the Russian Federation. The defendants in the case are FBK (Anti-Corruption Foundation) employees Lyubov Sobol, Oleg Stepanov and Kira Yarmysh, municipal deputies Lyudmila Stein, Konstantin Yankauskas and Dmitry Baranovsky, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, Alexei Navalny’s brother Oleg, head of the trade union Alliance of Doctors Anastasia Vasilyeva, and former FBK employee Nikolai Lyaskin.”

Image courtesy of Radikal.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Stopping His Torture Is Our Common Cause”

OVD Info
Facebook
April 6, 2021

Grassroots activist Anna Margolis has been detained near the FSB building on Lubyanka Square in Moscow. In her solo picket, she called for an end to the persecution and torture of [Alexei] Navalny.

Margolis has been taken to the police department in the Meshchansky District.

https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2021/04/06/u-zdaniya-fsb-na-lubyanke-zaderzhali-piketchicu-s-plakatom-protiv

Poster: Anna Margolis. Photo: Maria Kokovkina

“Navalny’s views are his business. Your opinion of him is your business. Stopping his torture is our common cause! ‘There are countries in which corporeal punishment has been abolished whereas in our country the question of a whether a man should be flogged or not is still a matter of dispute. […] You would be perfectly justified in showing your compassion for the victims, then why don’t you?’ A[lexander] Herzen, [‘Letters to an Opponent’], 1864.”

Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Special Detention Center Days

Special Detention Center Days: How the Security Forces Have Tried to Intimidate Protesters
Sonya Groysman
Proekt
February 15, 2021

After three “unauthorized” protest actions in support of Alexei Navalny (January 23 and 31, and February 2), more than a thousand people were sentenced to serve time in jail: this is a record for [post-Soviet] Russia. In this video, protesters who have already been released tell us how their days in police departments and special detention centers went. Do they now regret having been involved in the protests? Most importantly, were the authorities able to intimidate them?

24 mins, 19 seconds. In Russian, with Russian subtitles

At the 21:00 mark, an unidentified young man, just released from a special detention center, says the following on camera:

“Russia is definitely going to be free. […] They didn’t intimidate anyone in the slightest [by arresting and jailing them]. On the contrary, folks banded together even more. [The authorities] only incited more hatred. […] We are young, after all, and time is on our side. It’s only a question of time. We’ll even the score.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

When the Night Lanterns Sway

When the Night Lanterns Sway: It’s Useless to Try and Beat the State on Its Own “Legal Turf”
Alexander Skobov
Kasparov.ru
February 13, 2021

On February 9, Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s network of local teams, announced a flash mob for February 14, Valentine’s Day: residents of large cities should go into their courtyards at 8 p.m. and turn on their mobile phone flashlights. This is an attempt to adopt Belarusian know-how [see the article, below]. The idea is that residents of the same yard who are sympathetic to the protest movement but don’t know each other can get acquainted and create a grassroots network for rapid notification and mobilization.

Putin’s occupation army has reacted hysterically to the undertaking. A yahoo from the Assembly for Approving the Cutie Pie Slutsky’s Sexual Harassment (colloquially known as the State Skank) compared the flashlights in the courtyards with the signals of saboteurs guiding German bombers to their targets. The Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry, and the Prosecutor General’s Office declared it a call for “mass rioting” and threatened potential flash mob participants with criminal charges. Roskomnadzor has been chasing down internet media officially operating in Russian Federation and forcing them to delete reports about the planned event.

The point here is not a “shutdown of law in Russia,” which, according to Vladimir Pastukhov, occurred after Navalny’s return. A completely anti-legal, multi-level system for cracking down on street activism has long been erected in Russia. It consists of three elements: 1) laws aimed at restricting the right to public expression of opinion; 2) a dishonest and broad interpretation of these laws by the police and the courts; 3) and pure lawlessness, as when the police engage directly in frame-ups and fakery, and the obedient courts pretend not to see it.

Those who tried to defend the Article 31 of the Russian Constitution [“Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets”] focused mainly on the third element and sluggishly butted heads with the authorities over the second element, while almost ignoring the first element. Meanwhile, it was all about the first element. The second and third elements were just an appendix to it.

The Code of Administrative Offenses contains an article that punishes involvement in unauthorized events. The shapes and features of this involvement are not described. They are listed in Federal Law No. 54 (“On Mass Events”). In particular, it says that at a mass public event, participants express their attitude to current socio-political problems by chanting slogans and holding up placards.

For many years, opposition activists have been looking for an “unauthorized” way to publicly voice their opinions that would not get them detained. For a long time, they unsuccessfully tried to prove in the courts that if they did not chant slogans and did not hold up placards, there was no protest rally as such. However, the list of ways of participating in a rally, as enumerated in Federal Law No. 54, is not exhaustive. That is, any way of voicing one’s stance is considered an indication of having participated in a public event. That is, expression of a position as such is considered “participation.”

The phrase “expressed [his/her] attitude to current socio-political problems” is often found in police reports on the arrest of people involved in unauthorized public events. The phrase sounds crazy and comical when it comes to legally justifying arresting people and charging them with administrative offenses. It was not invented by the police goons, however. It was borrowed from the definition of a protest rally contained in Federal Law No. 54.

In fact, this coinage, found in police reports and “court” rulings, expresses the collective unconscious of the bureaucratic police regime—its dream, its loftiest ideal. Ordinary citizens should not publicly voice their opinions on current socio-political issues. It is better for them not to have such opinions at all. Voicing opinions is the prerogative of the authorities.

Hence, the very fact that an ordinary citizen voices their socio-political position is considered an anomaly, a deviation from the norm, a violation of public order. And when you start arguing with the authorities at the police station or in “court,” asking them what socially dangerous or simply harmful actions were committed by a citizen who was detained for publicly expressing their position by attending an outdoor rally, they sincerely don’t understand what you are talking about. It is clear to them that publicly voicing a position itself is a socially harmful action if ever there was one.

Since (they say) the greatest geopolitical catastrophe happened, and we are now forced to temporarily recognize a citizen’s right to voice their position at least formally, we’ll load your opportunity to exercise this right with so many conditions that you’ll rue the day you tried to do it. And they really have been doing just this—purposefully, consistently, for the entire length of Putin’s rule.

The lawless authorities refuse to authorize opposition rallies at central and iconic locations under completely far-fetched and false pretexts, and our “managed” injustice system almost always takes the side of the authorities. On the other hand, the “legislators” in the State Skank seek to block any chance people have to publicly voice their stance without prior approval. As soon as the opposition finds a new way of protesting, enabling it to circumvent previously imposed bans, a new amendment or a new law immediately follows, sealing this loophole as well.

It is useless to try to win against the state on its own “legal turf” as long as it has the will and power to shut society up. The state’s will can be opposed only by society’s will not to obey anti-legal prohibitions. The point of unauthorized public events is that they demonstratively violate prohibitions on “unauthorized” expressions of one’s opinion.

I have already had occasion to write that prohibiting people from publicly expressing their attitude to current socio-political issues without permission is an important part of the system for manipulating the admission of players to the “political market.” The entire social and political system that has taken shape in Russia is based on this system of manipulation. In order to reliably guarantee citizens their constitutional right to freely express their attitude to socio-political issues peacefully and unarmed, we have to replace the entire socio-political system.

Translated by the Russian Reader

When the Night Lanterns Sing

When the night lanterns swing,
And it’s dangerous for you to walk the dark streets,
I’m coming from the pub,
I’m not expecting anyone,
I can’t love anyone anymore.

The girls kissed my feet like they were crazy,
A widow and I drank through my father’s  house.
And my cheeky laugh
Was always a success,
And my youth has cracked like a nut!

I sit on a bunk like a king at a birthday party,
And I dream of getting a drab ration.
I look out the window like an owl:
Now I don’t care!
I’m ready to put out my torch before anyone else.

When the night lanterns swing,
And the black cat runs down the street like the devil,
I’m coming from the pub,
I’m not expecting anyone,
I’ve broken my lifetime record forever!

Lyrics by Gleb Gorbovsky. Source: a-pesni. Performance by Beseder and Lyonchik. Translated by the Russian Reader

A protest in Minsk. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS. Courtesy of MBKh Media

Belarusian Courtyard Protests Model for Latest Navalny Tactic
Window on Eurasia
February 13, 2021

Staunton, February 11 — The Navalny organization’s decision to shift at least for a time from mass public protests to smaller but perhaps even more numerous demonstrations in the courtyards of Russian apartment blocks is not a unique Russian innovation. Instead, it has its roots in what Belarusian protesters have been doing since last fall.

In Belarusian cities, MBKh journalist Arina Kochemarova says, this shift has led to the emergence of whole areas devoted to protests and to the first flowering of what many people there hope will result in the formation of local self-administration, yet another way they hope to undermine Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.

In these Belarusian courtyards, she points out, places that people have christened “squares of change,” people fly the white-red-white Belarusian flag, organize concerns and flash mobs, and in many cases get to know their neighbors better than they ever have in the past, something that by itself promotes solidarity against the government.

Yegor Martinovich, editor of Belarusian Nasha Niva newspaper, says that Belarusians made the shift because of the rising tide of repression and arrests of those taking part in major demonstrations. Fewer people are taking part in the courtyard protests, but at the same time, he suggests, courtyard meetings are forming a sense of solidarity for the future.

Courtyard protests are not only harder for the authorities to counter, but they also can take a variety of formats ranging from flash mobs to the emergence of genuinely independent community organization. “Civil society has begun to flourish everywhere which in general is a good thing. People have begun to unite,” the editor says.

The biggest problem with this shift, Martinovich says, is that the media pays a great deal more attention to one big demonstration than it does to many smaller ones, even if the smaller ones collectively include more people and have a greater impact. Moreover, Lukashenka is learning how to react, cutting off utilities where there are white-red-white flags.

Now, this Belarusian tactic is coming to Russia, intensifying fears among the authorities that the Navalny movement could develop the way in which the Belarusian one has. Russian officials have already made clear that they will crack down hard early on lest the shift from the streets to the courtyards takes off.

The City of St. Peter the Apostle

MBKh Media Northwest
Facebook
February 12, 2021

On Palace Square, accompanied by an orchestra, Vyacheslav Makarov, chair of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, presented letters of thanks and certificates of honor to the soldiers and officers of the Special Police Regiment who worked at the pro-Navalny protest rallies. This news was reported on the parliament’s website.

“Your faithfulness to the call of duty and exemplary attitude to the performance of your duties vouchsafes the defense of law and order, and the protection of the lives and safety of our citizens. You have been entrusted with the huge responsibility of being the guardians of our beloved city of St. Peter the Apostle,” Makarov said.

According to OVD Info, the security forces detained 575 people at the protest rally on January 23 in St. Petersburg, and 1,336 people at the rally on January 31.

Photos courtesy of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly’s website. Thanks to Nancy Enskaya for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

Blockade

“See the rally? It’s there.” How downtown Petersburg was cordoned off with snowplows and fences, although there were no protests
Anastasia Rozhkova
Bumaga
February 6, 2021

On the afternoon of February 6, downtown Petersburg was cordoned off with fences and snow removal equipment. Public transport did not run on the Nevsky and the surrounding streets, and the subway stations Nevsky Prospect and Gostiny Dvor were closed for entry and exit. People had to descend to the icebound Fontanka and Moika rivers to cross the road. No protests were held, however.

Bumaga shows and tells you what the city center looked like on Saturday afternoon.

On Friday evening, fences were installed on Nevsky Prospect and Palace Square. On Saturday morning, even more fences appeared, on Gorokhovaya Street and the Fontanka and Moika embankments. Security forces were also sent into the city center.

At 1:00 p.m, Nevsky Prospekt and Gostiny Dvor subway stations were closed for entry and exit. Around the same time, vehicular traffic was stopped on Nevsky Prospect and surrounding streets. Buses, trolleybuses, and trams were switched to shortened routes. The map of road closures looked something like this.

It was impossible to turn onto Nevsky Prospekt from Liteiny Prospect. Security forces told people to go to Ploshchad Vosstaniia [Insurrection Square] and from there to take Ligovsky Prospect.

Even ambulances had trouble getting through.

Bumaga’s Twitter account: “Vosstaniia Street is closed from Zhukovskogo to Nevsky. A reader reports that even an ambulance was not allowed through for several minutes.”

Last Sunday, downtown Petersburg was also shut down, but the security measures had to do with protests in support of Navalny and against the current government. This weekend, the opposition leader’s headquarters had not planned any rallies, and the authorities were unable to explain the restrictions.

The governor’s press secretary, Inna Karpushina, told Bumaga that questions about the street closures should be addressed to the local Interior Ministry office, where we were told this was not the case and referred to the city transport committee. However, earlier in the day, on its official Telegram channel, the transport committee had published a message saying that the subway would be closed by order of the Interior Ministry.

A Telegram message from the Petersburg city transport committee, informing readers that Nevsky Prospekt subway would be closed at 1:00 p.m. n orders from the Interior Ministry

The city center was shut down because of messages on Telegram, Fontanka.ru‘s source at the Smolny [Petersburg city hall] said. There had indeed been posts announcing a protest action on February 6: unknown organizers had asked people to bring flowers to the Monument to the Victims of Political Repression on the Voskresenskaya Embankment. Due to the road closures, the event was canceled, and consequently only seven people attended the event.

Flowers and a sign reading “It must not be repeated” on the Monument to the Victims of Political Repression in Petersburg. Photo: Yevgeny Antonov/Bumaga

Petersburgers furiously criticized the closure of downtown. People complained that they could not get to their jobs and doctor’s appointments. One social media user wrote, “For the first time in my life I made my way to a museum through the courtyards.”

“This is me this morning with a marshmallow cookie in my month reading the news that Nevsky and the subway stations from which I go to work on Nevsky were closed.”

Because of the road closures, Petersburgers were forced to take to the ice. “The Fontanka and the Moika [rivers] were completely blocked, so people just walked on the ice. At some point on the Moika, [the police] shouted through a megaphone about safety and ordered people to leave. Everyone was escorted off the ice, but five minutes later, there were a lot of people out there again,” Mediazona correspondent David Frenkel told Bumaga.

Petersburgers walking on the Fontanka River near Nevsky Prospect, 6 February 2021. Photo: David Frenkel

The street closures immediately became the subject of memes. Petersburgers joked about “phantom rallies,” which the police and the Russian National Guard had come out to disperse.

“See the rally?” “No.” “It’s there.”

In the morning, police searched the homes of thirty people in connection with a criminal investigation of the “blocking of roads” on January 23. [The “crime” allegedly committed by anti-Putin protesters in Petersburg on January 23.] Police raided the homes of former Vesna Movement press secretary Artem Uimanen, former municipal district councilor Svetlana Utkina, and other opposition activists. Some of them had their electronic devices confiscated.

“Terrific! In Petersburg, the day has begun with [police] searches of the homes of activists as part of the ‘roadblocking’ case, and then the pigs blocked the roads and closed the subway themselves.”

By evening, there were almost no traffic jams downtown Petersburg, and the fences installed earlier were being removed.

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Read about the January protest rallies in Petersburg. To summarize, there are more and more dissatisfied people, the security forces and protesters have become more aggressive, and the authorities are not open to dialogue. Here you can read about the spontaneous protest rally that took place on February 2, at which police used stun guns on people.

Translated by the Russian Reader