LIVE UPDATES: Today a convoy of farmers from Krasnodar Territory who are attempting to go all the way to Moscow to complain about illegal land confiscations in the Kuban region vowed to continue their “march” despite frequent stops by police.
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Yesterday, August 22, they began a journey of protest, and continued despite a dozen police stops this morning.
But they only got about 230 kilometers on their planned 1,300-kilometer journey to Moscow before all were detained in the village of Dorozhny near Rostov after meeting with Leonid Belyak, deputy of the presidential representative for the Southern Federal District.
Translation: OMON detained participants in the tractor run and are trying to provoke them.
The Association of Carriers of Russia (APR) wrote on their web site that they had been behaving peacefully and believed they were in a dialogue with the authorities and their problems were being heard, when riot police surrounded them and then ordered them into vans. Said the APR:
“The authorities absolutely don’t want to allow this information on the air and want it to remain deep within the village of Dorozhny, in the Aksaysky District of Rostov.”
It’s not clear yet if the farmers will be charged with any offense.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
They have been halted 11 times and blocked in Rostov Region under various pretexts, i.e. traffic violations, or expired insurance, or because, as police said on one occasion, “a tractor was stolen in a nearby area” and they needed to inspect the protesters. Police also invoked “the harvest special operation” as a reason for the stops.
The truckers said they were trying to move faster out of Kuban, because they believed the law-enforcers in Rostov Region — part of the government they are protesting against — were paying special attention to them.
Police blocked the long-distance truckdrivers — another protest movement against road tolls — from joining the farmers, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Nadezhda Kurazhkovskaya, the only woman truck driver in the Khimki protest camp, told Novaya Gazeta (translation by The Interpreter):
“We have been held now over two hours, we are trying to explain that we don’t have any procession, we just have a mass movement of citizens, there was a traffic jam on the Moscow Ring Road, so we were moving at low speed (like everyone), there is a recording on the dash cam, but they don’t want to hear any evidence. At this point, a traffic policeman from Mitino Precinct has joined us and several non-governmental security men.”
“They are trying to slap us with charges of disobedience of police and with political calls, but we don’t have any such calls on board the trucks. We especially consulted with linguists, and not a single formulation is a call, it is a just a statement of fact: ‘We Pay Taxes, Where Are Our Roads?’ that sort of speech, without a shadow of agitation or politics.”
Here is a photo essay by Anna Artyomova, who has covered the protest for Novaya Gazeta.
The protesters are displaying the 1488 painting The Judgement of Cambyses by Dutch artist Gerard David, depicting the arrest and flaying of the corrupt Persian judge Sisamnes, which has often been used in Ukrainian and Russian opposition demonstrations to dramatize the concept of what could happen to corrupt judges.
Meanwhile, 600 coal miners in the Rostov Region have gone on hunger strike, protesting that they have not been paid back wages totaling 300 million rubles ($4.6 million) for more than a year.
The Kuban farmers are the newest of these workers’ protest movements that have gone on sporadically in some provincial regions for some years. Usually, authorities pacify them quickly with short-term measures to prevent the spread of labor unrest but they continue to protest as their basic demands are not met.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick