MOSCOW, December 10 (Itar-Tass) —— Thousands are expected to gather in Moscow’s Bolotnaya square on Saturday afternoon for a rally For Fair Elections. The event has the authorities’ permission. Its organizers are a number of oppositional parties, but preparations have been conducted through social networks, in which more than 30,000 voiced their consent to join the Opposition’s rally.
The original intention was to demonstrate in Revolution Square, but the Moscow authorities allowed to hold it at an alternative venue. The maximum number of participants is 30,000. The rally may prove the strongest protest demonstration by the Opposition over the past ten years.
Moscow’s deputy mayor, Alexander Gorbenko, has said that “the organizers have agreed to hold the rally in Bolotnaya square, which was offered to them by the authorities for safety reasons.” Gorbenko said the rally can last from 14:00 to 18:00 Moscow time. According to his estimates, 5,000-7,000 demonstrators may take part. The Moscow police force has been taking every precaution and no detentions are planned, he said.
In the meantime, many users of social networks and members of the Opposition continue to insist on demonstrating in Revolution square. In their blogs they say they would try to gather there. However, the Moscow authorities have warned against any attempts at unauthorized processions. Gorbenko said the organizers of the rally have no plans for street processions, so any attempts to demonstrate in this fashion would be regarded as a violation of public order.
The Interior Ministry’s Moscow department on Friday evening posted a notification on its website saying that people who may be coming to Revolution square would be able to walk to the authorized venue through the city center. The police department warned that the protesters heading for the rally would be allowed to walk to the site on the pavements, without any slogans or banners.
“Otherwise this, just as obstructions to traffic, will be interpreted as a violation of public order,” the warning said.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office has warned some leaders of the Opposition it would be impermissible to stage unauthorized events.
“On the eve of December 10 and 11, when mass street activities are due, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has taken preventive measures. The organizers of unauthorized demonstrations Anastasiya Udaltsova, Nadezhda Mityushkina, Boris Nemtsov, Eduard Limonov and Vladimir Ryzhkov have been notified of the impermissibility of violations of the law,” the press-service of the Moscow prosecutor’s office said.
In the meantime, the Moscow city’s education department has unexpectedly ordered an unscheduled Russian language test for high school students. As follows from what the department’s official declared, the test is to be held in the afternoon, (15:00 Moscow time), when most other classes in schools will be over and other children will not distract the senior students from writing the test.”
The chief of Moscow’s education department, Isaak Kalina, has said about media speculations about the reasons for the surprise Russian language test that, “It is impossible to believe that there may be grown-up people in their right mind who would feel upset school students are busy at school during some street demonstrations.”
“Any normal adult will not only refrain from urging them to go there, but will do everything in his powers to keep children in safety,” he said.
Unauthorized protests by the Opposition in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been held daily in both Moscow and St. Petersburg since December 5. As a result, more than 1,000 people have been detained and many arrested for administrative abuse. Among them there were one of the leaders of the oppositional movement Solidarity and blogger Alexei Navalny.
The Opposition is determined to urge its supporters to demonstrate practically in all large Russian cities. The law and order committee of the administration of St. Petersburg has given its consent to a request for a rally in Pionerskaya square, a source in the city’s law enforcement said.
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev earlier said that “any attempts at holding unauthorized events and at violations of law and order should be stopped by police in accordance with the existing legislation, and those responsible, brought to justice.”
“As you may know, the constitutional right of peoples to express their opinion should not restrict the rights of other people, hinder public transport or upset the work of organizations,” Nurgaliyev said.