Will the “Manezhnaya Case” Be Added to the “Bolotnaya Case?”

July 17, 2013
The participants of the protest event on Manezhnaya Square on May 6, 2012 did not escape the attention of the “Bolotnaya Case” investigators/Photo Reedus

There could be new developments related to the case of mass riots on May 6, 2012. According to the “NG” [Nezavisimaya Gazeta],  investigators are questioning the opposition activists detained on that day on Manezhnaya Square who “diverted the police forces” from other protesters. The “NG” managed to get hold of a list of opposition activists who could be investigated and arrested in August.

Soon another episode could be added to the “Bolotnaya Case,” according to the sources close to the investigation. Referring to the case materials, they allege that the Investigative Committee’s attention has switched to those opposition activists who were detained on May 6 at Manezhnaya Square. The source who talked to “NG” has a list of individuals that the investigators will start questioning in August.

That list includes almost all of the individuals who, on May 6, 2012, were detained in Manezhnaya Square and were brought to the police departments of the “Aeroport” and “Voykovsky” districts. Other people could be arrested as well.

According to the source, the [number of] personnel of the investigation team has been increased from 6 to 18. The group operates on the premise that the protest at Manezhnaya Square was allegedly a part of actions aimed at dissipating the law enforcement resources during a mass riot.

“The initial arrests are planned for August. Right now the list of potential ‘candidates’ includes six individuals, and later that number could be increased to 12. They will investigate everyone of those who were booked at the police stations and later questioned by some plainclothes investigators.” According to the activists, many of them were questioned by either the Anti-Extremism Center or the FSB agents, who allegedly threatened that “everyone will go to jail.”

According to the “NG” source, at the top of the list was a well-known journalist Arkady Babchenko. His work was in the center of attention of the Russian media during the recent events in Turkey, when Mr. Babchenko was detained and deported by the Turkish authorities. Also on that list are more opposition activists, including Nadezhda Nizovkina, Tatiana Stetsura, Yulia Kazakova, Igor Mandarinov and, according to some data, Vadim Korovin, an activist from the Russian Car Owners Federation (FAR).

Speaking to the “NG” the activists confirmed that they had received information about the investigators’ plans to accelerate the investigation and about their possible arrests, and they take the situation very seriously. “There were no riots on Manezhnaya Square,” Arkady Babchenko told “NG.” “Soon after people started to gather the ‘cosmonauts’ came and started to shove people into paddy wagons. I was one of the first they grabbed.” Note, that the footage of Babchenko’s arrest has been posted online. In that video you can clearly see that before shoving him into the paddy wagon the cops hit him several times. The journalist says that once he was released he went straight to a medical facility to have the beating documented.

Speaking to “NG” Igor Mandarinov and Yulia Kazakova also confirmed that they were detained at Manezhnaya Square on May 6, 2012. “They didn’t even have a chance to stage a protest. I was just approaching the square when they grabbed me and shoved me into the paddy wagon without any explanations,” Kazakova recalls. On that day all those detained at Manezhnaya Square were accused of “violating the established procedures of organizing public events” (Article 20 of the Administrative Code. — “NG”).

It is to be recalled that several days before the May 6 events a number of opposition activists, including Natalia Chernysheva, a city council member representing one of the municipal districts, had submitted an application to organize an event on Manezhnaya square, where eventually several hundred people showed up. Officially the authorities denied the request, but did not do so within a statutory three day time limit, so the activists assumed that the event was cleared. “The Mayor’s Office is sure they denied the request, while we consider the event cleared. Only an independent court could rule on those nuances,” Mark Galperin, another event organizer, told “NG.” He is confident that if the investigators are acting on the instructions from above to lock people up no matter what, they won’t need any evidence.

The likelihood of a new round of reprisals against the opposition was confirmed by Violetta Volkova, an attorney for Sergei Udaltsov. “I don’t rule out that the investigation of that episode has been initiated. The investigators have to make something up to prove that the riots did take place.” Volkova stresses, that the investigators are trying to implicate as many people as they can. “The group of organizers, that includes Udaltsov and Razvozzhaev, is well defined. Now they add some independent activists to the list of those unfortunates who were randomly selected among those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to my information, Vadim Korovin may be one of them.”

Sources close to the Investigative Committee say that the investigators themselves are not too excited about what is going on. They have neither desire nor incentives to investigate a case on some alleged riots. “They understand, that no matter how hard they work, in court they will look kind of stupid, because the case is politically motivated. It’s been dragged on just to dig out at least something to incriminate those who have been arrested recently.”

Mikhail Remizov of the Institute of National Stategy told “NG,” that the authorities should really opt for letting the “Bolotnaya Case” slide. “The protest movement is tapering off, so there is no need to discredit the opposition. The riots case, on the contrary, gives the protest activities some impetus, although it does not cause a stir in the society.” However the expert doesn’t believe that in this case common sense would necessarily prevail. “The trial, that will most likely result in a guilty verdict, has its own inertia. Over a certain period the investigators have formed a base of ‘evidence’ to initiate new criminal proceedings. Also the testimony of other defendants hang like a sword of Damocles over the rest of the opposition activists.”