Tired Of Playing Nice, Russian Protesters Ready To Defy Police
Vladimir Putin's victory in the presidential elections has not deterred opponents, some of whom have also faced arrests by authorities. And now, as plans begin for the next major rally, on May 5, protest organizers say they will ignore government
MOSCOW - Vladimir Putin might have won the presidency, but the Russian opposition movement has not lost hope.
The movement "For Honest Elections' has just announced plans for a major march in May, shooting for as many as 1 million protesters, and most notably declaring that it would not limit itself to actions approved by Moscow's city government.
The idea to organize a "march of the millions' on May 5 came from "Left Front" leader Sergei Udaltsov. "We will have to just go out (in the streets), and not leave until a high-ranking official comes to talk with us," Udaltsov declared to Kommersant on Wednesday. "As we learned in the last protest, they just don't understand anything else."
On the next day, Thursday, he was sentenced to 10 days in jail for trying to organize an unsanctioned protest in Pushkin square after the protest on March 10.
Udaltsov's lawyer, Nikolai Polosov, told Kommersant he would appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, Udaltsov plans to go on a hunger strike. Another member of the planning committee for "For Honest Elections," Alexsei Navalni, was fined $34 on Thursday for his part in the protests on March 5, when the opposition refused to cut short a rally after the officially allowed time ran out. Navalni is also planning to appeal, and hold responsible the policemen who he says gave false testimony against him.
As a result of Thursday's courtroom rulings and "the regime's general attitude toward the protest movement," the opposition says it is forced to radically reevaluate its tactics regarding mass street protests. "In reality, the steering committee that organized the previous rallies has finished its work and is no longer necessary," Navalni said. "The previous system, where we always agreed with the city government on the time and place for the protests, does not work for us anymore. I do not see any use in continuing to negotiate with the city government."
No more negotiations
A source from the disbanded steering committee said the protest movement's planned course of action was already well known, and that "For Honest Elections' is already planning to "spread the word about the march route, tactics and possible consequences from the regime" via social networks and mass media.
"We don't want any violence, we just want to bring a million people into the streets - not to riot," the sources said. "We will control the crowds ourselves. We will notify the city authorities, but we will not negotiate with them."
Up to this point, the protest movement's tensest negotiations with Moscow authorities took place in the run-up to the March 5 rally. "For Honest Elections' wanted to hold a rally on the Lubyanka or Manezhnaya squares, but Moscow Vice-Mayor Aleksandr Gorbenko was only prepared to offer Bolotnaya square. After four days of arguments, the two sides agreed on a rally in Pushkin Square. The event ended with clashes with the police. The city let it be known later that they would take those clashes into consideration when considering future rallies. Even so, negotiations regarding the rally five days later, on March 10, were successfully concluded in 24 hours.
The Moscow city government did not comment on the opposition movement's announcement. Kremlin supporters announced that they were not yet planning any counter-protest in May. "The opposition's announcement that they would gather a million people is laughable. There were quite a bit fewer than that in the last rally," Mikhail Dukhovich, one of the pro-Kremlin movement's representatives told Kommersant.
Though they too doubted predictions of 1 million participants, Moscow police said that they were prepared for an unsanctioned rally in May. "If the event is authorized, than we will provide security for it," a police source said. "But if not, we will forcefully suppress it in strict accordance with the law."
Read the original article in Russian
Photo - akk_rus