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Arrests of oppositionists, suspected of disorders at rallies, resumed

February 21, 2013, 15:27 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The arrests of people, who are suspected of staging massive disorders at a protest action on May 6, 2012 in Moscow, resumed after they were stopped for some period of time. In the view of experts, the risk of criminal persecution is turning into the main lever of pressure of the Russian state authorities on the off-system opposition.

On May 6, 2012, the March of Millions, which the Moscow authorities permitted in Bolotnaya Square, grew into the clashes between the demonstrators and the police. The opposition accused the police of hampering the march and the rally. The disorders broke out and more than 400 people were detained. According to the organizers, about 20,000 people were participating in the protest action, and about 8,000 people, according to the police reports.

Last Wednesday, one more person was detained in the criminal case over the May 6 disorders. The detainee is Alexander Margolin, 41, who is an editor of the magazines, civil activist and a participant of massive protest actions. He became the 21st figurant in the “Bolotnaya Square criminal case”. The lawyers stated that the second wave of detentions is rolling over the country and linked it with the fact that the investigation was finalized against the first 12 defendants last December.

The Russian Investigation Committee reported that during massive disorders in Bolotnaya Square Margolin “resorted to violence, knocked down a policeman to the ground and hit the latter with the legs several times.” The Investigation Committee said in a statement that this offence is proved “by the available video recordings, the testimony of the witnesses and the injured party and other materials of the criminal case.”

Margolin became the 21st figurant of this criminal case. The previous detention in this criminal case was made on February 6. Then member of the Russian National Democratic Party Ilya Gushchin, 24, was detained. On February 7, he was arrested for two months. Gushchin is accused of the offence that he was pulling a policeman by the clothes during the riots. The opposition activist stated in court that he really grabbed the OMON riot policeman by his uniform, and, in his words, he was seeking to protect another demonstrator, whom another policeman was beating up.

Gushchin became the first detainee in the “Bolotnaya Square criminal case” after quite a long interval. The latest detention of activist of the RPR-Parnas Party Sergei Krivov was made last October.

One verdict was already passed in the “Bolotnaya Square criminal case” in early November 2012, when Maxim Luzyanin, who concluded a plea bargain and pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. Moscow resident Alexandra Dukhanina, 18, who is being kept under house arrest, pleaded guilty partially. She is accused of “inflicting physical pain” to a policeman, hurling a piece of asphalt at him.

“The repressive machine has begun working again,” the Novye Izvestia daily quoted lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky as saying. Agranovsky defends two defendants in the “Bolotnaya” criminal case. In the view of the lawyer, this is probably caused by the fact that the investigation against 12 defendants was completed last December. “The investigation took serious efforts, and the Russian Investigation Committee just had neither available forces nor time for other actions at that moment,” he explained. “After the investigation was finalized, new defendants were needed. Most probable is that Gushchin and Margolin will be also accused of participation in massive disorders and the use of violence against the law enforcers,” he noted. Meanwhile, the lawyer noted that there were no such cases in the world legal practice, when the participants were punished so severely for such protest actions.

The experts believe that the criminal persecution is one of the main ways of pressure of the state authorities on the opposition.

“Before the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term the Kremlin gave some place for the off-system opposition in the Russian political system,” head of the analytical department of the Centre of Political Technologies Tatiana Stanovaya wrote on the website “Without real chances to run in the elections (expect for local ones) and quite narrow opportunities to hold authorized protest actions, the opposition could exist at least, hold its actions, set up different structures, which were competing constantly between each other and did not pose any serious political threat for the state authorities. In the last few years one gets an impression that the strategy of the state authorities has changed and the off-system opposition is exposed to purges,” she said.

This strategy pursues several tasks, the political expert believes. The first task is to neutralize most potentially dangerous opposition leaders, including criminal proceedings against them. The second task is to obstruct the political activities of the off-system opposition as much as possible. The third task is to withdraw more moderate oppositionists from the non-system opposition into the systemic opposition (the registration of the RPR-PARNAS Party). “Thus, the activities of the opposition will continue to face different difficulties and will remain under a close control from the law enforcement agencies,” Stanovaya predicts.

A next massive protest action in Moscow will be held on May 5-6, 2013 and will be timed to the anniversary of the disorders in Bolotnaya Square. The Opposition Coordination Council has taken the foresaid decision on Saturday, February 16. The format and scenario of the protest action has not been determined yet.

The members of the council did not support the proposals for other protest actions before May 6, voicing concerns that frequent protest actions will affect negatively their numerical strength.

The latest large-scale opposition action in Moscow and several other Russian big cities was held on January 13. Its main slogan became the protest against the law, which bans U.S. adoptions of Russian children. The protest action showed that the protest movement is not on the decline in Russia, but is becoming less politicized.


MOSCOW, February 21