Daily Archives: March 6, 2007

Valiant Petersburgers Stand and Fight the Power! URA PITER!!

The Moscow Times reports that Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Kasyanov drew at least 3,000 protesters (perhaps twice that number) to the streets of St. Petersburg over the weekend to fight the insidious power that is seeking to destroy Russia. They also drew hoards of Kremlin stormtroopers with clubs and teargas. We must do all we can to support this valiant last-gasp struggle for democracy and freedom in Russia!

Truncheon-wielding police Saturday violently dispersed an unauthorized opposition rally in St. Petersburg, rounding up and beating dozens of activists and detaining several organizers.

Despite the detentions, opposition figures praised the so-called March of Those Who Disagree by members of liberal and leftist groups as a major success, saying the event attracted several thousand people despite alleged intimidation from the authorities — an unusually high turnout for the country’s beleaguered and often fractious opposition.

More than 3,000 activists, according to Associated Press estimates, chanted “Shame!” as they marched down the city’s main avenue to protest what they said was the government’s retreat from democracy under President Vladimir Putin. Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who helped organize the event, said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the participants numbered up to 6,000.

City authorities had banned the march, granting permission only to hold a rally in a location far from the city center. But the activists defied the ban and marched toward and then down Nevsky Prospekt, blocking traffic there.

Riot police detained and clubbed dozens of protesters in an attempt to stop the march and disperse the activists, but the demonstrators broke through the cordons, marched toward the center and rallied for about 40 minutes until police moved in again, detaining scores of others.

Eduard Limonov, head of the unregistered National Bolshevik Party, and independent city legislator Sergei Gulyayev were among the organizers detained.

Police beat protesters with truncheons and dragged them into detention buses. Several activists also attacked a law enforcement officer.

Interfax, citing police officials, reported that 113 activists were detained. Some of the detainees were later taken to a local court and were expected to face trial.

The activists held banners “Russia Without Putin,” “We Are for Justice” and “Take Elections Back.”

They called for the ousting of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of the president, accusing her of corruption and incompetence.

“The authorities are destroying … the constitutional structure, rights and freedoms,” said former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. “Unfortunately we are going through a very difficult time in our country, but we will continue to fight for our rights.”

The protest took place before March 11 elections to the Legislative Assembly, in which the Yabloko party, one of the country’s two main liberal parties, was kicked off the ballot for what the party said were groundless technical reasons.

The activists accused authorities of cracking down on the opposition, stifling freedom of speech and eating away at democratic institutions by abolishing direct elections of regional leaders and creating an obedient parliament.

To watch YouTubes on the protests click here or here. For more breathtaking photos click here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Many Russian-language links and commentary here.

Yet Another Journalist Meets Violent Doom in Moscow

Bad things just keep happening to journalists who dare to criticize the Kremlin. Last Thursday it was Paul Joyal in Maryland, and then on Friday Ivan Safronov in Moscow (pictured). Is it just coincidence? The Moscow Times reports:

A Kommersant journalist who covered military affairs and had more than once angered government officials fell to his death Friday from a fifth-floor window of the apartment building where he lived.

Prosecutors said suicide was the likeliest explanation for the death of Ivan Safronov, a retired colonel who was a columnist at the daily newspaper for more than 10 years. But Safronov’s colleagues and neighbors were skeptical he would take his own life.

Safronov’s body was discovered at the entrance to his building on Nizhegorodskaya Ulitsa 9, in southeast Moscow.

Kommersant journalist Konstantin Lantratov, who knew Safronov for 15 years, said in an interview that he could not think of a person “more cheerful” than his former colleague. “Anybody else could do that but him,” Lantratov said, referring to talk of a possible suicide.

Safronov fell from the window upside down, Lantratov said, adding that that would not have happened if he had jumped of his own volition. “This could mean he was knocked unconscious and then pushed out the window,” he said.

Kommersant editor in chief Andrei Vasilyev told NTV that Safronov was “absolutely not capable” of killing himself. “He was a real colonel,” Vasilyev said. “He was so good. Everyone in the office loved him.”

Safronov had had run-ins with the Federal Security Service over allegations that he disclosed classified information in his articles. “But they always ended well because Safronov used publicly available information and was able to prove that to FSB officers,” Lantratov said.

Lantratov said the FSB questioned Safronov last year over a story about the Samara-based TsSKB-Progress, the manufacturer of the Soyuz-ST rocket. Agents wanted to know where the columnist had unearthed some sensitive data. Once Safronov showed them the Internet site where he got his facts, the FSB dropped its case, Lantratov said.

Lantratov said he last spoke with Safronov on Tuesday.

Safronov lived on the third floor of the five-story, brick building. Police believe he died around 4 p.m., a time of day when few people are home.

Anna Shcherbakova, 25, who lives on the fifth floor, said police visited her apartment at about 7 p.m. She said she returned home at about 3:30 in the afternoon and did not notice anything.

Police also questioned other building residents.

Lyubov Grigoryeva, who lives in the apartment directly above Safronov’s, on the fourth floor, said she was in her kitchen reading at 4 p.m. but did not hear anything.

The entrance to Grigoryeva’s apartment is a half-flight of stairs below the window from which he fell. She added that a dog living on the fifth floor barks at the slightest noise, but on Friday afternoon, she said, she heard no barking at the time when Safronov is thought to have tumbled to his death.

Raisa Belova, 70, another resident, said she found it strange that Safronov had walked up two floors above his apartment, dressed as if he were about to go outside and apparently carrying a bag of mandarins.

“He was completely dressed, wearing a coat and his cap,” Belova said.

Belova said she saw a bag of scattered mandarins near Safronov’s dead body when she came back from church.

Prosecutors at the Tagansky district office, which is handling the case, could not be reached for comment Sunday. Spokesman Alexei Kravchuk said in televised comments Saturday that investigators considered suicide the most likely explanation for Safronov’s death.

Funeral arrangements were tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Lantratov said.

LR on PP

Check out La Russophobe‘s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where she exposes the outrageous fraud and creeping malignancy that is Kremlin-controlled “Russia Today” television. Feel free to leave your comments as to how the West can best respond to this neo-Soviet attack on democracy.

Tennis Update

World #2 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium easily thrashed Russian #5 Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets in the finals of the WTA tour event in Doha last week, moving to within a few points of seizing back the #1 calendar-year ranking from Russian Maria Sharapova, who is only #3 on the 2007 race to the championship rankings, behind American Serena Williams and Belgian Kim Clijsters, because of her wretched play so far this year. Kuznetsova was able to win only six of 18 games played against the dominating Henin. Another totally non-competitive match when a so-called “dominant” Russian faces a highly-ranked non-Russian.