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Third Anniversary of the 6 May 2012 Protest in Moscow: dozens detained (Voice of America)

posted 17 May 2015, 09:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 May 2015, 09:17 ]
7 May 2015 

Liudmila Alekseeva on the Importance of the Events of 6 May 2012

By Danila Galperovich

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

65 people detained – that was the result of the Russian police action on 6th May 2015 as they moved in against people and individual pickets gathering, in Bolotnoye Square, on the anniversary of the mass demonstration of 2012. The civic activists were dispatched in police buses, despite observers’ repeated protests to the guardians of order that the detentions were unlawful. By Thursday 7th May three remained in police detention – the opposition activists Irina Kalmykova, Sergei Sharov-Delone, and Aleksandr Ryklin. According to Moscow human rights activists, they could be charged with ‘organizing unauthorized events’. The remaining detainees had been released, a few of them had been required by the police to put in an appearance on the morning of 7th May to provide ‘written explanations’ of their actions.

These were the circumstances in which critics of the Kremlin, in the centre of Moscow, marked the third anniversary of the events which the Russian authorities called ‘large-scale riots, and which the opposition, human rights activists and the international community had described as an exercise in the right to protest, and which were met by police violence.

A reminder – on 6th May 2012, the day before the inauguration of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia, the Russian opposition organized a mass march, ‘the March of Millions’ and a rally ‘For Honest Elections’ in protest against the falsification of the presidential elections and infringement of basic rights and freedoms. In the vicinity of Bolotnoye Square the police began to take strong measures to break up the rally, measures which, in places, escalated into clashes between groups of protesters and the security forces. As a result of the operation to remove and disperse the protesters, 450 individuals – who included both protesters and accidental bystanders – were detained by the police. Many of the activists from the opposition, including Boris Nemtsov, Aleksei Navalny, and Sergei Udaltsov were also detained.

Following the events of 6th May 2012, the Russian authorities opened a criminal case related to the organization and participation in ‘large-scale riots’ (the ‘Bolotnoye Case’), and detained more than 30 individuals. Many received custodial sentences, some were amnestied before the Olympic games in Sochi in 2014. A few civic activists, who had been put on the ‘wanted’ list in connection with the Bolotnoye Case, fled from Russia as political refugees.

Many western countries, including the United States, criticized the actions of the Russian authorities. Both politicians and human rights activists in the USA criticized the violent suppression of a peaceful street protest. In particular, the American human rights organization ‘Freedom House’ condemned the detention and beating of those participating in the opposition activities in Moscow on 6th May, and declared that the Russian authorities should be held to account for their actions.

‘We declare our unconditional support for the citizens of Russia, exercising their right to the freedom of assembly’ announced the then president of ‘Freedom House’, David Kramer.

The well-known Russian human rights activist, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Liudmila Alekseeva closely followed the lengthy investigations and court hearings in the so-called Bolotnoye Case which followed the events of 6th May 2012. In an interview with the Russian service ‘Voice of America’, she explained why she attributed so much significance to this:

‘I understood that this trial was organized, just like all the events of 6 May, that the so-called ‘mass riots’ simply did not take place. The authorities tried on purpose to organize them, blocking the road in the direction a large number of people were moving in the hope that this would in reality bring about large-scale riots for which it would subsequently be possible to give harsh sentences to a large number of people, and in that way stop the mass protests that the authorities in Moscow did not like, and, perhaps, not only the Moscow authorities.’

Alekseeva says that for her the political nature of the investigation and trials was absolutely clear:

‘Those people who were tried for large-scale riots were tried on fabricated charges. I went to the trials, I heard the evidence of the so-called “victims” from among the riot police officers, I heard what the prosecutors and lawyers had to say. I am convinced that the police were specially trained to say that it was they who were actually the victims. The most interesting thing is that all the authorities’ efforts to organize the large-scale riots came to nothing, because the people turned out to be far more peaceful, far more civilized, than the authorities had counted on.’

Liudmila Alekseeva says that she is proud of the way that those people who were torn out of their lives and clearly had no intention of becoming political prisoners conducted themselves, presenting models of civic behaviour:

‘People came to the rally completely certain that they would simply walk to Bolotnaya Square and return home to get on with their daily lives. No one supposed that they would end up in custody, that they would end up being accused of using violence against police officers. People were not psychologically ready to end up in custody, and facing the threat of long prison terms on the basis of these charges into the bargain. Nonetheless, these people who were quite unprepared psychologically conducted themselves honourably and with the greatest dignity. They did not try to accuse anyone else in order to save themselves, they behaved like mature, serious citizens, all the more so since people were seized from out of the crowd quite at random. This allows us to say that if it had been other people seized from among the crowd, they would have behaved in the same way. There are a great number of people like this in our country, and it makes me very happy to know that.'

Source: Danila Galperovich, 'Третья годовщина «Акции 6 мая» в Москве: десятки задержанных. Людмила Алексеева и Геннадий Гудков – о важности событий 6 мая 2012 года', Russian service of Voice of America

Translated by Mary McAuley