Notes on the Upcoming Moscow Protest

A reader in contact with the Oborona opposition group reports that, not surprisingly, the proposed mid-April protest march in Moscow (on the main Pushkinskaya Square) by the “Other Russia” coalition has been banned by the Kremlin. The reader reports:

According to the authorities, a request for a different action planned for the same place and the same time was submitted “a minute before” the organizers of the march submitted theirs. Of course, the organizer of the “strike breaker” action was United Russia’s Young Guard. However, Other Russia’s activists were at that place for the whole morning and they saw no other people submitting their requests. Nor did the TV journalists who filmed the process of submitting the request for the march. So it seems that the request is fake. The administration suggests that the march should take place near V.V.C. (VDNKh) far from city center instead of Pushkinskaya square. The organizers will surely reject this proposal.

The reader also offers the following comments from Oborona about the protest, following up on the Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg events recent documented on LR (a second march in St. Petersburg may occur in mid-April as well):

A statement about the march was submitted to the Moscow administration on Friday – the earliest day allowed for this. Legally, we don’t need to get any permissions nor does the government have a right to ban a rally (if the statement was prepared and submitted correctly).

However, some Moscow officials have already claimed that they are not going to “let Nizhny Novgorod events happen in Moscow”. It means that they will probably try to ban the march, even illegally. Anyway, we’ll see it in a few days, I suppose.

The authorities are trying to prevent the march as usual: stickers inviting people to the march are removed, fake stickers have been printed and are distributed instead. These fake ones are made in the same colors and fonts but they say,” Russia is eternal and non-dividable. There isn’t and won’t be the ‘Other Russia'”.

According to the media Moscowadministration has even arranged a gay parade for 14 April and it will probably have the same route as the march. If this information is true, we’ll have to expect lots of LGBT people (fake or real) coming to the march and showing off. So the authorities will try to pretent that the march is connected with the LGBT movements. Ironically, just a year ago Moscow mayor Luzhkov claimed there would never be a gay parade in Moscow but now he decided ‘the discontent’ a bigger evil.

The United Russia’s youth union (Young Guard – Molodaya Gvardia) plans its own rally in for 14 April (but in a different place) and they claim they’ll bring 15,000 people there. They invite people in online forums for 200 roubles (approx. $7).

On 31 March there was a Communist rally in Moscow. It was quite small but lots of riot police was brought in and we saw a new anti-riot vehicle. It looks like a general repetition before the march.

There is going to be an Imperial March on 8 April. It is organized by a pro-Kremlin right-wing organization Eurasian Youth Union (ESM) and it’s directed against the “orangist opposition” and the West. Even United Russia’s youth union (Young Guard – Molodaya Gvardia) is going to join.

The reader offers some additional observations:

1. President’s Administration approaches all the parties to sign an “anti-extremist” agreement. It says that the parties will not take part in any “extremist” activities nor will they support “extremists” at the elections. The exact text of the statement is kept secret, even from those who are going to sign it. United Russia (Spravedlivaya Rossia) and Yabloko have already agreed to sign it.

2. Not directly connected with the march but also an interesting event. The SPS federal board has effectively dismissed party’s Moscow branch and suspended its board. This happened because Moscow was an opposition enclave in SPS, had too anti-Putin position and even decided to join the march (despite the federal party’s decision to ignore it). So it looks like the SPS is finally becoming a pro-Putin party.

3. There are rumors that some officials from Putin’s Administration offered $50,000 to an LGBT activist for organizing a gay parade during the March of Discontent.

The Moscow Times reports:

The Other Russia, a coalition of political opposition groups, applied Friday for a permit to hold a large-scale march in central Moscow on April 14. The so-called Dissenters’ March will take place with or without a permit from City Hall, organizers said. “We have a constitutional right to hold peaceful demonstrations,” said Alexander Averin, spokesman for the unregistered National Bolshevik Party, who submitted the application.

City officials promised a decision by Wednesday, Averin said. The Other Russia has also applied for a permit to hold a march in St. Petersburg on April 15. Police dispersed similar marches last month in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Last December, some 2,500 activists from The Other Russia descended on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, where they were surrounded by 8,500 riot police officers. “It is obvious that as the authorities take a harder line, the chances increase that the power vertical will simply collapse,” former chess champion turned opposition leader Garry Kasparov told reporters Friday.

Kasparov heads the United Civil Front, which is joined in The Other Russia by writer Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov’s Popular Democratic Union. Organizers say the march will proceed down Tverskaya Ulitsa to Teatralnaya Ploshchad. They expect up to 5,000 people to attend. Nikolai Kulikov, the city’s point man on security, said the needs of drivers would be factored into the decision, adding that drivers “aren’t likely to take kindly to street closures in the city center on a weekend,” Kommersant reported Friday. Kulikov’s secretary referred all questions to Sergei Tsoi, spokesman for Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Tsoi was unavailable for comment Friday. In addition to a large police presence, organizers of the April 14 march are expecting to clash with a handful of nationalist Russian Orthodox Church groups, which have threatened the marchers. “If we aren’t scared of thousands of OMON [riot police], then why should we be scared of these groups?” Averin said. As well as flags with anti-Putin slogans, some of the demonstrators will be brandishing the black, yellow and white imperial flag, a powerful nationalist symbol. Yegor Ovchinnikov, co-director of Georgiyevtsy!, a nationalist Orthodox youth group, threatened retaliation against anyone carrying the flag during the march. “If participants of the march attack us, we will defend ourselves,” he told Kommersant. “And if they raise the imperial flag, we will consider that to be an attack,” “Ovchinnikov’s words do not scare us,” Averin said.

Pavel Zarifullin, a leader of the EuroAsian Youth Union, which calls for the return of imperial rule and emphasizes the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, said he was joining with other youth organizations to defy the dissenters. “The Other Russia says it wants ‘freedom against,'” Zarifullin said. “We want ‘freedom for.'”

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