The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia
...in protest of internet censorship in Russia

Chronicle of Russian Dissent: Pussy Riot Beaten, Independent Media Space Shrinks (8-15 March)

Russians continue to protest the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, and suffer backlash themselves. Cases of those arrested last week in solidarity with the sentenced defendants in the Bolotnaya Case continue to be processed. Some of those who protested during the Sochi Olympics last month, such as the Circassians, are still suffering the consequences. And the Russian government continues to make moves to suppress dissent. This blog will chart throughout the week what’s happening with dissidents in Russia.


March 15, 2014


1404 GMT:

Translation: @tvrain On the stage are Mariya Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikov. Banner: For Your Freedom and Ours


1242 GMT: A Twitter and Instagram blogger by the name of gorod095 has covered a Russian Orthodox community’s demonstration in support of Putin and Russians in Ukraine today. About 200 turned out to hear speeches from various nationalist writers and activists. Among the more bizarre Instagram videos of the day is a clip of a Russian Orthodox priest signing a patriotic rock song against the backdrop of a banner from the nationalist Russian March group, with the black skull-and-bones flag of an Orthodox biker’s group whipping in the wind.
Photo by gorod095
Photo by gorod095
Photo by gorod095
Photo by gorod095


Translation: A woman recounts from the stage that she dreamed of Prince Andrew; he looked sad and was in knight’s armor.


1158 GMT: This has been a tough week for journalism and blogging in Russia — the collateral damage of Putin’s aggressive moves in Ukraine. The editor of the formerly independent news site lenta.ru, Galina Timchenko, was forced out, and 39 of her colleagues quit in protest. While Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of radio station Ekho Moskvy was re-confirmed in his position by a vote of colleagues and the board of directors, Ekho’s Internet site was blocked this week over the alleged “extremism” found by prosecutors in the blog of controversial opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Ultimately, Ekho had to cut Navalny loose to restore its accessibility through some Russian Internet service providers.

Although nowadays Izvestiya is described as pro-government again, after an earlier period of independence, a reporter was still fired over Ukraine coverage.

Translation: @pchikov @izvestiya Yury Matsarsky has been dismissed from the publication due to incorrect reports from Ukraine (via @gorod095).

Argumenty i fakty, famous as the largest circulation newspaper in 1990, and known as the most accurate and popular of the Soviet-era press, was sold to the Moscow government, adding to City Hall’s other holdings such as Vechernyaya Moskva.

Anastasia Karimova, a prominent finance reporter from Kommersant, announced her resignation this week, causing disappointment for many who had avidly followed her columns on the Russian economy.


Karimova described the complex reasons for her resignation in a Facebook post, hinting at concern about current events (she remarked on Twitter that she was born and grew up in Lugansk, Ukraine) as well as creative differences at Kommersant, where she had been 10 years:

“I would like to bring some clarify to my resignation. Under the current circumstances I least of all am suitable for the role of victim of the regime. Yes, I am very tired from the background of events occurring, yes these events in part disrupted my motivation (although the main event, after which I threw up my hands, is not related to journalism — I will speak of it later). But the main reason I left ‘Money’ is tiredness with the format. My editor sensed this and transferred me to the macro-economic department, but I didn’t adapt there.”


1156 GMT: The opposition rally has begun.


Translation: The rally has begun on Sakharov Avenue. Boris Nemtsov is speaking.


1107 GMT: Russian blogger Varlamov estimates about 10,000 at the opposition March for Peace.

Translation: @varlamov The march for peace has a lot of people, I think about 10,000.

Varlamov reports that another procession in support of Putin’s policies Ukraine also has about 10,000 participants. Followers of Sergei Kurganyan, head of Essence of Time, a leftist patriotic group, are dressed all in red and marching in formation.


Translation: And this?
Translation of Banners: We Believe in Putin and We are For Self-Determination of Crimea
For more photos see Varlamov’s Twitpic page.

Russian leftist patriotic movement Essence of Time. Photo by Ilya Varlamov
Russian leftist patriotic movement Essence of Time. Photo by Ilya Varlamov

Translation of signs:

Navalny and Tyahnybok Made in the USA
Ukraine and Russia Together Against Fascism
Brotherly Peoples Cannot be Made Enemies


1055 GMT: Newscaster.TV continues live coverage of the March for Peace in Moscow today, and has described the sentiments of many in the crowd as opposed to Russian annexation of the Crimea and to the invasion of Ukraine. Some of the signs seen:

No to Putin’s Third World War!
We are Not Putin!
No to War!

A crowd of all ages, with some families with children, are carrying Russian and Ukrainian flags and peace banners and chanting “Peace to the World!”


1026 GMT: Several marches are under way today in Moscow, an opposition demonstration called “March for Peace” which is in support of EuroMaidan in Ukraine with the Twitter hashtag #МаршМира, another by Russian nationalists in support of Russians in Ukraine and an Orthodox community gathering in support of Russian Orthodox in Ukraine. TV Rain has live coverage.

Translation: @D_Nesterov: At 14:00 about 6,800 people have come to March for Peace procession. Second set of metal detectors opened. Almost no Internet.

Translation: @lenta_super A second column across the park has about 500-700 people.

Translation: @SvobodaRadio March for Peace in Moscow, the main banner for the action.
Banner translation: For a Russia and Ukraine without Putin!


Translation: Occupation of Crimea is Russia’s Shame!


1602 GMT: An influential lawyer has decided to behave more like a prosecutor than an attorney.

Sergei Smirnov, chairman of the Moscow Regional Council of Lawyers (state bar association) threatens to get opposition leader Alexei Navalny put back in jail, saying he “cannot rule out” that stricter measures may be taken against the anti-corruption blogger, RAPSI, the legal news agency reported.

“We will conduct a meeting and discuss the situation thus far. As chairman of the Moscow Regional Council of Lawyers, I will appeal to the prosecutor’s office, so that Navalny’s actions are given a legal assessment, so that the investigation appeals to the court for stricter measures of restraint,” noted Smirnov. He believes that “Navalny will cause irreparable harm to society and house arrest for him is too soft a measure.”

LiveJournal page. "On the territory of your country, viewing of this page is prohibited by government agencies."
LiveJournal page. “On the territory of your country, viewing of this page is prohibited by government agencies.”

Yesterday, Roskomnadzor, the state communications monitoring agency, placed Navalny’s blog in the banned list and ordered Internet service providers to block access to his site. Smirnov said that Navalny’s wife and colleagues were posting his blog entries for him, and that he should “cease his unlawful actions.”

Meanwhile, Navalny’s colleagues have posted that while his LiveJournal may be blocked for some inside Russia, they can read updates about him on Facebook, Twitter, or VKontakte.


1408 GMT: Here’s trouble — the routes of various marches to be held in Moscow this Saturday:


Translation of the map legend is as follows:

Green – Peace March organized by the opposition
Red – Parade by Serge Kurginyan’s Essence of Time, pro-government movement
Blue – Rally of representatives of Russian Orthodox community in support of Russians in Ukraine
Yellow – Streets where movement will be blocked from 11:00 a.m. until the end of the events.


1349 GMT: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Mariya Alyokhina have been assaulted yet again, this time in the town of Yavas where they had travelled to visit the Mordovian Women’s Prison Colony. Once again they’ve been beaten and sprayed with zelyonka, which is an indelible green disinfectant.


Translation: @tolokno Two thugs with drunken faces grabed Masha [Alyokhina] by the hair, twisted her head and and sprayed a needle in her face. The second remained.


Translation: @tolokno Invstigation of the needles with zelyonka on site. Ilya Shablinksy, member of the Council for Human Rights, is writing an explanation. He also ended up painted.

Photo by Mariya Alyokhina
Photo by Mariya Alyokhina

The two former prisoners had hoped to bring attention to the plight of forced labor in the colony, where women work long hours in poor conditions and are not adequately compensated for their work, Huffington Post reported.


Translation: @MashaAlekhina Prison hospital in Barashevo. Mordovia. Terrible place.


1329 GMT:


Translation: @aavst I am counting on Yuliya Navalny’s blog for the Ekho site.


Translation: @aavst The editorial policy of Ekho will not change.


1316 GMT:


Translation: @aavst The Board of Directors confirmed me as editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy for 5 years – Gazprommedia.


1130 GMT: A source has told the Russian government news site Vedomosti that Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, has been re-confirmed in his position at the independent radio station for another five-year term, Kommersant reported. According to the corporate by-laws, the editor is chosen by the collective of journalists at the radio, and then his candidacy is confirmed by the board of directors. In a post at 15:03, Kommersant cited a source reported by Vedomosti and confirmed by ITAR-TASS.

But Venediktov himself cautioned that congratulations were premature, as not all the votes were in yet.


Translation: @aavst The voting in the Board of Directors to confirm the editor-in-chief of Ekho is before 18:00. Not all the directors voted yet. Don’t be taken by the usual provocation. Or lying.


0754 GMT: Roskomnadzor removed the block on Ekho Moskvy at about 1:00 am today, Interfax.ru reported.

Now that the Ekho Moskvy management has removed opposition blogger Alexei Navalny’s blog from the radio’s Internet site, it is back now visible to Russians. The site has also been removed from the unified register of banned information, Romkomnadzor told Interfax.

The site was banned under “Lugovoy’s law” as it is known, which was a bill promoted and passed in the State Duma and Federation Council 20-25 December 2013 by Andrei Lugovoy from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky); United Russia’s Sergei Chindyaskin, and the Communists Sergei Gavrilov and Nikolai Ivan. It was signed into law by President Putin on 30 December. Under the law, the prosecutor’s office may order the immediate blocking of sites without a court order for “extremism” or “calls for unapproved actions.” The host of a web site is given notice to immediately remove banned content. The site can the be unblocked only after the host provides evidence that the “illegal information” has been removed.

A reminder that the six sites blocked yesterday appear visible outside of Russia, but inside Russia, those using certain ISPs, such as Akado and BeeLine, get a warning page from the prosecutor’s office instead of the site.


Translation: @aavst Since 1 January 2013, Alexei Navalany posted 375 blog entries on the Ekho site, which gathered a total of 22,763,388 visits.


0617 GMT: A protester has managed to hang a banner on the Krymsky (Crimea) Bridge in Moscow, a suspension bridge which spans the Moskva River. The banner says “War with Ukraine Putin’s Insanity.”


Translation: @VSorkin Krymsky Bridge, Moscow. To risk such an act in Moscow – that’s a real achievement!


0521 GMT: Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of the independent radio station Ekho Moskvy, had a message for users today. Our translation:

1. On 13 March, Roskomnadzor [State Communications Monitoring Agency] sent Ekho an order from the Prosecutor General’s office about restricting access to the blogs of Alexei Navalny on the Ekho Moskvy web site in connection with the discovery of signs of extremist activity.

2. Simultaneously, the Prosecutor General ordered providers distributing the Ekho Moskvy site to notify the owners of the site, and within 24 hours close access to it, if Ekho Moskvy did not fulfill the order from the Prosecutor General.

3. Some providers, in violation of the Prosecutor General’s order, began turning off Ekho Moskvy’s site.

Therefore:

1. Access to the pages of the blog of Alexei Navalny, in accordance with the demands of the Prosecutor General, will be restricted.

2. Ekho Moskvy wlil send to the Prosecutor General and Roskomnadzor an inquiry in which it will ask to explain what specific statements by Alexei Navalny are of an extremist nature, and whether the remaining materials not of an extremist nature will be accessible to users.

3. Ekho Moskvy’s legal service and the shareholders are preparing materials to send to court about the unlawful closure of the site Ekho Moskvy by some providers in violation of the request under federal law and the Prosecutor General.

4. Chose your providers more carefully.

March 13, 2014


2014 GMT: Unfazed by the blocking of a half dozen independent web sites today, Russian Internet users are quickly responding to the situation by using circumvention software. Blockage of sites in Russia is not a new experience for them. From numerous comments of Russians on Facebook exchanging tips, it can be seen that they are turning to the Russian edition of the Opera browser (in “compressed mode”); various commercial Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or open source VPN, or Tor. Russians have become accustomed to Tor, which has a Russian-language version, but have found it slow. Recently, Swedish researchers discovered, however, that some Tor nodes operating in Russia had been compromised and were reportedly being used by the government to monitor Facebook users.


1922 GMT: The trial of two defendants in the 6 March 2012 demonstration known as the Bolotnaya Case continued today. Novaya Gazeta ran a liveblog of the trial today.


Translation: The case of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev. Summary of the session on 13 March [on Facebook].

Our summary of Udaltsov’s Facebook post in Russian: Witness Konstantin Lebedev was questioned extensively on his knowledge of any preparation of “mass disorders” in 2012. The prosecutor also asked that Lebedev’s testimony given during the investigation be read in court. Indeed, the transcripts of his testimony did differ from his statements later in court. The prosecutor tried to extract from Lebedev an admission of the instigation by Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev of “mass disorders,” but he stood firm and said that his earlier testimony had been misunderstood. Udaltsov refused on principle to put questions to Lebedev as he believed he had been lying. Razvozzhayev asked several questions. On 20 March, Lefortovo Court of Moscow will review Razvozzhayev’s petition for early release. The next session of the their trial will take place 17 March at 11:00 am at the Moscow City Court.


1922 GMT: Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, confirms that his site has been blocked by Russian Internet service providers.


Translation: Akado and Biznessvyaz Holding have blocked the site of Ekho Moskvy. Call them.

Venediktov is currently in London.


1906 GMT: Prominent art gallery owner Marat Gelman had this to say about the blocking of independent news sites today:


Translation: So I gather they are tearing people away from their computers and driving them out on the street)). Wise men, strategists.


1837 GMT: Over on our Ukraine liveblog, we are wondering if there is a correlation between reports of Putin’s impending invasion of mainland Ukraine, and the blocking of some of the main independent news sites in Russia that have been critical of Russian military action in the Crimea.


1826 GMT: The web site of the independent radio Ekho Moskvy has also been reported in the list of sites banned at the request of the Russian Prosecutor.


1815 GMT:
Roskomnadzor
Roskomnadzor

Translation: Restricted Access to a Number of Internet Sites Disseminating Calls to Unauthorized Mass Activities

At the request of the RF Prosecutor General, the following Internet sites have been entered into the unified register of banned information:

www.grani.ru
www.kasparov.ru
www.ej.ru

These sites contain calls for unlawful activist and participation in mass activities conducted with violation of the established order.

Also at the demand of the RF Prosecutor General, the URL for the page of the LiveJournal blog hosting has been entered:

http://navalny.livejournal.com

The functioning of this Internet page violations the statute of the judicial decision on the selection of the measures of restraint of a citizen with regard to whom a criminal case has been opened.

Internet operators have been sent a request to immediately restricted access to the sites indicated.


1742 GMT: Izvestiya has published an article claiming that Roskomnadzor, the state communications monitoring agency, has blocked opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s blog on LiveJournal, and that other independent sites grani.ru, Kasparov.ru and Yezhednevny Zhurnal were also blocked.

Navalny’s blog is still accessible, as are the other news sites, but from outside Russia.

Russian blogger Oleg Kashin called the story “a provocation.” Vladimir Korsunsky, editor of grani.ru, said that the news that his site had been blacklisted “came as a surprise” and that he had not received any complaints from authorities.


Translation: ARAM ASHOTOVICH [editor of Izvestiya]: once again a provocation!

But Grani.ru has posted a notice that a number of Russian Internet service providers have blocked access to grani.ru, Kasparov.ru and EJ.ru. The sites have been included in the list of banned information at the demand of the Prosecutor General for “calls for unlawful activity and participation in mass events conducted with violation of the established order.”

The Izvestiya article cites a source in Roskomnadzor who said a request was sent to LiveJournal to block Navalny’s blog as he was alleged to have violated the terms of his house arrest, which included a ban on Internet access.


1732 GMT: Following the dismissal of long-time editor-in-chief Galina Timchenko, 39 out of 85 employees of Lenta.ru resigned today, Lenta.ru reported.

Yesterday, employees had issued a statement to readers, noting “the space for free journalism in Russia has shrunk dramatically” and that the “disaster is not that we have nowhere to work. The disaster is that it looks like you have no more to read.”

The 39 who have left include 32 working journalists, all 5 photo editors and 2 administrators. Journalists from the departments “Russia,” “World,” “Internet and Media” are leaving, along with analysts and copy-editors. Only one person each remains in the sections “Culture” and “Science and Technology”. A team of 5 special correspondents headed by Ivan Kolpakov are leaving, and another, correspondent, Ilya Azar was told he would be fired by the new owner. The technical department (13 people) announced they will also leave en masse in the near future.

The move leaves 23 working journalists and editors to run the site. Yuliya Minder, general director, was also fired and replaced by Andrei Solomennik, the financial director of the company Rambler-Afisha-SUP.


1114 GMT: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is being investigated in yet another criminal case — this one on charges of illegal moose-hunting, a new entry on his LiveJournal blog reports 13 March. Navalny was brought to the Investigative Committee to read the files in the case, and shown a picture of himself with a dead moose.
Photo by Olga Mikhailova
Photo by Olga Mikhailova

“The investigator laughed, the lawyer laughed, and the dude from the prosecutor’s office tried to keep a straight face with great difficulty,” says the post. When he was arrested last week and barred from Internet use, Navalny explained that his wife and colleagues would keep up his blog and Twitter accounts.

Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova determined that the prosecutor himself had opened an investigation on charges of poaching, based on a picture of Navalny with the moose found on Facebook. Navalny refused to sign forms or answer questions such as “what happened to the moose’s carcass,” citing his current status under house arrest in another case.

In response to the absurdity of the charge, colleagues posted a number of photos of Navalny in different poses — shooting geese, driving a car, being led away from a demonstration by police, drinking tea in a restaurant, etc. and asks whether various fake charges could be made against him based on what might be happening in the photos. As for the moose, Navalny added that it was eaten.


0934 GMT:


Translation: @s_udaltsov Zamashnyuk: were you hired by Targamadze? Lebedev: we were partners. Zamashnyuk: who dominated? – Lebedev: we were equals.

Updates on the trial of Udaltsov and Rozvozzhaev are also being made from Udaltsov’s Twitter account. The reference is to a charge from the prosecution that the Russian activists were hired by a Georgian politician Givi Targamadze to incite unrest in Russia, charges that Targamadze and the defendants say were faked.


Photo by Alexandre G.
Photo by Alexandre G.

0905 GMT:


Translation: The judge has raised a fuss upon seeing that someone in the audience is taping, and has interrupted the trial.

Udalstov being led by police to trial. From Radio Svoboda.
Udalstov being led by police to trial. From Radio Svoboda.

Today the trial begins of Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev, two opposition figures charged with the 6 March 2012 demonstration know as the Bolotnaya Case. Russian blogger Oleg Kozlovsky is monitoring the trial. The two Left Front members are accused of organizing riots on Bolotnaya Square and in other cities. Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk and two others judges are presiding. The defendants have pleaded not-guilty. About a dozen supporters have staged a picket outside in protest. RFE/RL’s Russian Service Radio Svoboda is covering the trial live.

The case was sent back to the prosecutor by judges in December 2013 to address violations, but then the trial date was set and the pre-trial detention term extended until 10 June. Udaltsov’s lawyer, Karinna Moskalenko, has objected to the charges, Radio Svoboda reports. Here is our translation:

“Participation and preparation of public actions, rallies, parades — this is legitimate. Increasing the number of supporters and participants of such actions — this is legitimate. Preparation of agitation, propaganda — this is legitimate. And even the preparation of anti-government literature and banners — this is absolutely permitted by the law. But on the contrary, not securing order, letting the situation reach massive riots — that is the full responsibility of the government agencies which are supposed to calculate, foresee, and not permit blockage; and not use forceful means and demonstrate excessive force on peaceful demonstrators who came unarmed, without any attempt to cause any riots, but should ensure their safety. In this indictment, in this case, everything is turned on its head!”


March 12, 2014


2327 GMT: The popular Russian news site lenta.ru faced a serious challenge this week as prosecutors opened up an investigation of the site due to the publication of an interview with Andrei Tarasenko, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian ultranationalist group Right Sector along with materials about Dmytro Jarosz, the leader of Right Sector. The interview with Tarasenko can still be viewed, but the link to the article on Jarosz has been removed as the prosecutor has declared that it is “extremist” in nature. A copy can be seen at censor.ua.net. The probe obviously cast a pall over the news room.

Lenta.ru’s critical coverage of events in Ukraine is the likely backdrop for a dramatic development today, the unexpected resignation of the editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, who had been in her position since 2004, and had started work with Lenta.ru back in 1999. She has been replaced by Aleksei Goreslavsky, an owner of the Internet company Afisha-Rambler-SUP whose previous position was at a pro-government publication, Vzglyad.ru.

In a move that shocked the Russian intelligentsia as much as the Russia-watchers community abroad, the entire staff of Lenta.ru then resigned over the forced departure of their editor-in-chief. “Over the last couple of years, the space for free journalism in Russia has shrunk dramatically,” the journalists gravely explain. “The disaster is not that we have nowhere to work. The disaster is that it looks like you have no more to read.”

In recent months, even before Russian military actions in Ukraine, the independent TV Rain came under intense pressure from the Kremlin over a poll concerning the Nazi siege of Leningrad and whether or not viewers believed it would have been better to collaborate with the Hitlerites than suffer the loss of so many people. The problem touched a nerve of painful World War II memories, but was also a metaphor for the kind of existential questions the Russian opposition faces today in deciding how much to accommodate to Putin. The cable providers said they were facing outraged complaints over the poll, and discontinued TV Rain in their program packages. TV Rain began to lose a significant portion of their revenue, as many of those who most avidly watch TV Rain don’t pay 1000 rubles a month to get it on cable TV, but read the news for free on the Internet and watch the occasional free videos or livestreams of events there.

Another outlet that has come in for pressure is Ekho Moskvy, the only independent radio station left in Russia. Recently, the editor was changed there after Kremlin interference, to none other than the wife of the second deputy of Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. Now the veteran newscaster Alexei Venediktov soon faces an election to keep his position as editor-in-chief. With the change in the editorial line engineered by the Kremlin and its close business partners, it is feared he may not survive the challenge.

Commenting on the latest news from Lenta.ru, Pussy Riot band member Maria Alyokhina wrote on Twitter: “The whole of the Russian Internet is being wrapped in barbed wire,” Hurriyetdailynews.com wrote. “This dismissal is acknowledgement of you as the head of a quality independent outlet,” Yevgenia Albats of opposition magazine The New Times wrote on Timchenko’s Facebook page.


Golden loaf on Ministry of Justice folder in Yanukovych's residence.
Golden loaf on Ministry of Justice folder in Yanukovych’s residence.

2259 GMT: Opposition politician and blogger Alexei Navalny has weighed in on the debate about Russia’s military actions in Ukraine — from his perch under house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet to track his movements. Navalny is barred from Internet writing by court order, but has fashioned a work-around by writing statements by hand on paper, then passing them to his staff who have collectively been maintaining his LiveJournal blog and Twitter account. Writes Navalny:

“In Ukraine, there is a popular uprising against a corrupt and thieving government. The nucleus of this uprising was Kiev and the western regions of the country, but it was supported (silently) also by a large part of the southeast; otherwise Yanukovych would not be holding strange press conferences in Rostov-on-Don. The party I head has a political statement on this topic. People have a right to rebellion in conditions when other political methods of struggle are exhausted.”

Asked if Putin was worried, Navalny comments:

“The photographs of people running tours through Yanukovych’s residence (remember, Putin has 20 of these), and photographing the zoo and the golden baguettes and the golden toilets, wounded our crook-in-chief in the very heart.”

Navalny then goes on to claim that while he may be called “a Slavic chauvinist,” he believes Russia’s greatest strategic asset is not oil or gas or nuclear bombs but the friendship and brotherly relations among Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. He notes that while he served his 7-day jail sentence, he found himself in a jail cell with a Belarusian, Azeri, and Uzbek, and felt the greatest kinship with the Belarusian.

“We are constantly being bombarded with some nonsense about Eurasianism, and that we must bring everyone here from Central Asia. But talk to any Uzbek younger than 40 years. For him, Russians, Americans, and New Zealanders are all the same. They all don’t know the Russian language. We have read different books, watched different films, and have different proverbs, values, and orientations.”

As for Putin’s claims that the Russians of the Crimea are being persecuted, Navalny is having none of it, and calls out the president’s hypocrisy.

“Where were they when Russians were being kicked out by the hundreds of thousands from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan? Where were they when Russians were being stabbed in Chechnya? Why are they silent when Chechen gangsters, with impunity, calling themselves “representatives of the community,” rape people and get suspended sentences?”

Navalny cites a table of statistics showing the plunge in the number of Russians in various countries of Central Asia and in the Russian Caucasus to make the point that less Russians have left Ukraine than other countries.

Navalny explains that he thinks that Crimea was only accidentally “given” to Ukraine and that it was “wrong, unjust and insulting to any normal resident of the RF” because it was transferred “by an unlawful, voluntarist decision by the fool Khrushchev.” He is infuriated that Russia even still has to pay rent for the Black Sea Fleet base. He loves the Crimea, because it’s where he and his wife spent their first vacation together.

Nevertheless, he does not support Russia’s current actions in Ukraine because the past agreements Russia made to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which prompted Ukraine to give up its nuclear arsenal, should count for something, he feels. He further comments that referendums should not be done on such a short notice in this fashion.

But while some might be relieved to hear this prominent figure take up a position favorable to the new Kiev government, his further comments about fears that Chechnya will get the idea to hold a referendum and break off — and then possibly Kaliningrad region, and Dagestan, and Tuva and other regions of the Russian Federation — lets us know that his interests in a free Ukraine are premised on his own vision of a great Russia. His main reason for rejecting the annexation of the Crimea is that it would be too much of an economic burden for Russia.


2255 GMT: Russian intellectuals concerned about their country’s aggression in neighboring Ukraine were distressed to find out 11 March that a number of prominent artists, educators, theater directors, and museum curators had signed a statement in defense of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to take military action in Ukraine.

“In these days when the fate of the Crimean and our fellow citizens is being decided, the cultural figures of Russia cannot remain indifferent observers with a cold heart.

Our common history and common roots, our culture and its spiritual sources, our fundamental values and language have united us forever. We wish that the commonality of our peoples and our cultures would have a solid future.

This is why we firmly announce the support of the position of the President of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and the Crimea.”

Many of the names on the list are not known in the West; a few, like sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, have long been supporters of the Kremlin’s statist culural policies. Some dissenters are bemoaning the presence on the list of people they had previously respected and thought were “decent.” Nikolaus von Twickel reports that the director of the Moscow circus as well as the EuroVision runner-ups, the Buranovskiye Babushki [Buranov Grannies], have supported Putin’s actions in Ukraine, as the Russian Ministry of Culture has enthusiastically reported.

)

The manifesto seems to be a form of counter-propaganda to a stirring video made by Ukrainian theater directors and actors appealing in Russian to their counterparts in Russian cultural institutions.


2010 GMT: Amnesty International has condemned the attack on Pussy Riot members on 6 March as they sat in a McDonald’s restaurant near the train station. Moscow AI representative Sergei Nikitin commented:

“By all accounts, this violent attack appears to have been premeditated by an organized group. The unidentified assailants chanted slogans, held aloft a banner and filmed the entire incident.”

)
The attackers carried hand-written signs saying, “Dirty Whores, Get Out of Town!” We can also see from the video obtained by Amnesty that the assailants are wearing St. George ribbons, which have been used by Russian nationalists in mass marches and have also appeared in attacks in Ukraine by Russian nationalists.

In this clip, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina appear to have green paint on their faces in fact because they’ve been splashed with zelyonka as we reported earlier. The young men who attack them do not appear to be drunk but are organized. They shout at them to “go back where you came from” and “we don’t need your kind here.” Several people keep crying “Security!” for help, and no one comes.


)
2300 GMT: The Russian-staged mass rallies in support of annexation of the Crimea seem to involve workers from factories or state-funded institutions where employees or students are mandated to attend. There are some reports that people are paid to participate — or given some kind of perks. Over the weekend, marches were held all over Russia, with 65,000 people participating in a rally in Moscow, AP reported. Such large gatherings could not be held without the permission of the top leaders.

One video above uploaded to YouTube on 10 March by EuroMaidan PR tended to feed the stereotypes of vodka flowing freely to ease the boredom of being compelled to turn out for a political protest.


Translation: At a rally in support of residents of Crimea at the Vasiliev Descent.

TV Rain as well as a number of bloggers, including the collective @navalny have noted that RIA Novosti has removed this photograph from the rally from its photo archives. The photo remains in a tweet by the news outlet. Since the rally was organized by the government, it sparked comments about possible coerced participation for universities because of the African students in the picture holding up a sign saying “Crimea! Russia! Referendum!”


2200 GMT: Russian authorities themselves have organized mass meetings to support the Russian invasion of the Crimea and its unification with the Russian Federation, then ensured saturation coverage on state-controlled TV. So when reports came out from several Russian cities in the last few days about “rallies in support of the people of Ukraine,” the Russian-language press in Ukraine reported it as a positive sign of Russian dissent. Delo.ua ran a story about the demonstration in Vladivostok with 5,000 people with a headline “One Rally That Won’t Get on Russian State TV.”

Photo by d3.ru
Photo by d3.ru

Local offices of the Russian Interior Ministry readily confirmed to reporters that mass meetings had taken place involving “several civic organizations” and “support for the people of Ukraine”. Pictures in some copies of this story in various publications like podrobosti.ru showed large numbers, but the signs were not distinct.

But Delo.ua also reported that on 10 March, 7,000 people demonstrated in Chita, where police also confirmed that the All-Russian Popular Front, the Kremlin-created mass movement designed to replaced the discredited Nashi (Ours) was the organizer. That was the tip-off that these stories were an example of a typical Kremlin propaganda tactic of disinformation.

Russians responding in the comments were quick to ferret out the misleading stories. A reader named Ivan Ivchenko said “Check out vl.ru and you will see what kind of rallies there really were.”

Vl.ru is a popular portal with news and chat; the hockey games as lead story and the top category — “Water and Electricity Shut-Offs” lets you know you’re in remote, provincial Russia. If you dig underneath the discussions on hunting, you can the notice “Let’s Support Crimea: Everybody to the Rally Tomorrow.” The user gave the time and place and added, “Let’s show those pindos that we are for the return of our land.” This is an odd but increasingly common ethnic slur in the Russian language used for Americans or specifically American soldiers.


Photo by Ed Glezin
Photo by Ed Glezin

2117 GMT: Russian blogger Ed Glezin captured the scenes of 2 March demonstrations in Moscow near Red Square and the Ministry of Defense (above) in opposition to Russian military actions, where he says about 50 demonstrators were detained. These were typical of a lot of such demonstrations in Russia in recent weeks, where people are opting to use very simple signs in Ukraine, some reminiscent of the state-orchestrated mass peace marches of the Soviet era, like “Peace to the World” or as in this photo, “I am For Peace” or “No to War!”
Photo by Ed Glezin
Photo by Ed Glezin

Given the low number of demonstrators who peacefully stood holding such signs, the riot police appearance seemed like over kill.

)

In this video taken by Glezin, people chanting “No to War” are nabbed by OMON officers, and the crowd shouts “Shame, shame!” and “Let him go, what are you doing?” Towards the end of this clip, an elderly woman challenges the officers, saying, “But this is all peaceful. We don’t want war. We don’t want our children to have to go and fight as they did in Afghanistan. Come one now, guys, you’re just the same as us. Maybe there will come a time when your help will really be needed with this outfit but not here now.”


Local activist, Igor "Stepanych" Andreyev. Photo: Sergey Chernov / For SPT
Local activist, Igor “Stepanych” Andreyev.
Photo: Sergey Chernov / For SPT

2015 GMT: Among the protesters against the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week in St. Petersburg was a 75-year-old survivor of the Leningrad Blockade, the St. Petersburg Times reports.

Russian police detained Igor Andreyev, who survived the Nazi siege of Leningrad and fined him 10,000 rubles ($275) for attending the anti-war rally with a simple poster, “Peace to the World.” Vitaly Mironov, a parliamentary member from United Russia who came to the event, reportedly called Andreyev a supporter of “fascism.”


March 8, 2014

1952 GMT:

As we reported last week, opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained for “resistance of an officer” although he had complied with orders to go into a police van. Above is a videotape of his arrest taken by supporters and published to show Navalny was standing quietly and not speaking before riot police darted into the crowd and nabbed him. Navalny was sentenced today to a 10,000 (US $275) ruble fine.

Last week, due to a pre-existing investigation, Navalny was also sentenced to two months’ house arrest, and then released home with an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements. He is also barred from use of the Internet. Currently, his LiveJournal blog and Twitter accounts under his name are being maintained by his wife and a team of colleagues at the Anti-Corruption Foundation.


Translation: This is Yuliya. Alexei is home. He has a fashionable black bracelet on his leg. He (Alexei, not the bracelet) sends greetings and “No to war!”.


1945 GMT:

Photo by Mikhail Kirosirov
Photo by Mikhail Kirosirov

We reported 28 February some 200 detentions in front of the Zamoskovoretsky Courthouse where the sentences of the Bolotnaya defendants were being heard, and then later that evening several dozen more detentions as protesters assembled at Manezh Square.

On Livestream footage of the demonstrations, it could be seen how riot police both randomly plucked people from the packed crowd in front of the courthouse, but also zeroed in on some people peacefully standing or holding placards possibly because they knew they were prominent figures.

On 24 February we reported from Human Rights Watch in Moscow that “a prominent file director” was detained long with a “60-year-old mathematician from the Russian Academy of Sciences.” On 5 March, a number of the individuals detained 21 February and ordered to return to court were sentenced, Lenta.ru reported.

The mathematician is Viktor Vasilyev, shown above being led away by police. As Lenta.ru reported, “It was the first time in court for this prominent academician (the ‘Vasilyev variables’ were named for him), who is president of the Moscow Mathematical Society, on the editorial board of 7 scientific journals”. Many of his academic colleagues and students came to support him, including Alexander Kuleshov, director of the Institute for the Problems of Information.

The judge asked Vasilyev if he had waved his arms around and shouted the slogan “One for All and All for One,” but he said that wedged tight in the crowd, it was impossible to wave your arms and that wasn’t his slogan. The frail 57-year-old also denied resisting police, and had two witnesses in his favor. Nevertheless, he was sentenced the same 10,000 ruble fine given to others.

Pavel Bardin detained by police. Photo by Novyye Izvestiya
Pavel Bardin detained by police. Photo by Novyye Izvestiya

The film-maker is Pavel Bardin, prominent director of Russia-88 and Gop-Stop, and son of the famous animator Garri Bardin.

“Oh, I have finally learned the point where the cinematic arts converge with the exact sciences!” i.e. in a courthouse, Lenta.ru quoted a mathematician in the courtroom as saying.

When a piercing alarm kept going off in the courtroom and no one seemed to be able to figure out how to stop it, Bardin quipped, “Don’t you have a tin-foil hat?” The judge proceeded to state that Bardin had cried “Freedom for the Prisoners of Bolotnaya” and “One for All and All for One” and also “Shame!”. Bardin denied the charges, noting that he had sought to observe the trial, not participate in a rally. He noted that he had spent more than 3 hours in detention and listed other procedural violations but nevertheless ultimately was also sentenced to a 10,000 ruble fine.

Later Bardin told Novyye Izvestiya that he had witnessed how riot police had removed their badges before the arrests, and had also thrown their hats to the ground, although state TV reported that protesters had knocked them off.


1940 GMT: Pussy Riot activists Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Mariya Alyokhina travelled to Nizhny Novgorod to meet with local activists for prisoners’ rights and to visit a prison colony. Attackers splashed on them indelible green disinfectant known since the Soviet era as zelyonka, also used in attacks on the Ukrainian opposition.


Translation: Rights Zone arrived in Nizhny Novgorod. To visit Women’s Corrective Labor Colony No. 2. Nadya has a burnt eye, I have a concussion and two stiches.

Stanislav Dmitrievskiy of the Committee Against Torture in Nizhny Novgorod commented on his Facebook page:

Today in my city dozens of gopniki wearing St. George ribbons [favored by Russian nationalists-Ed] at a cafe right in front of other guests and security, humiliated and beat two young women — Mariya Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Alyokhina suffered a concussion and a cut forehead and needed two stitches). Verzilova [Tolokonnikova's husband-Ed] who tried to intervene was neutralized by having zelyonka splashed in his eyes. No one — I repeat — no one — came to their defense, and didn’t punch in the mug at least one of the men. Among those present, not a single man was found. Some of the journalists who happened to be there filmed it. It is terribly shameful.