MOSCOW, August 24 (Itar-Tass) — The Moscow city mayor’s office decided to unveil sites in the Russian capital, where public speaking, discussion and debate will be allowed. They should become analogues of London’s Hyde Park. Beginning from January 1, 2013, these areas will appear on the territory of Moscow’s most visited parks - Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure and Sokolniki. However, these areas can gather no more than 2,000 protesters. Opposition members believe that the authorities try to distract them from organizing mass rallies, therefore they have no intention to visit Moscow’s “Hyde Parks”.
Moscow’s Gorky Park and Sokolniki will set up special corners, which can gather approximately 2,000 people, the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily reported. To hold actions at these pilot areas no special permit should be requested from the city authorities. All those, who wish to organize such an action, can simply place their application on the website that will be specially created for this. However, if somebody wants to gather the March of Millions with 5,000, 10,000 or 60,000 participants, a special notification should be filed in accordance with the established procedure.
Representatives of the Moscow city administration believe that these “speakers’ corners” will be on demand among non-governmental organizations and unrecognized leaders of different movements, RBK daily wrote. There are many such organizations in Moscow. In January-July the mayor’s office received over 250 applications for holding actions with less than 1,000 participants. Such applications make up 89 percent of all those filed.
Two areas chosen by the mayor’s office will be supervised by Moscow’s culture department and for its head Sergei Kapkov this will be the first experience of direct interaction with the opposition, the Kommersant business daily reported. Kapkov is known for his liberal views, therefore it is not ruled out that it would be easier for protesters to organize rallies.
At first, the opposition favoured this initiative of the city authorities, but now it fears that the mayor’s office will stop coordinating rallies in other places and believe that Gorky Park and Sokolniki will not be popular among protesters.
Meanwhile, the city authorities assured on Thursday that the creation of Moscow’s Hyde Park would not be an obstacle for organizing rallies at any other place, but the opposition insisted that in any case Sokolniki and Gorky Park would be not a popular gathering place for protesters.
“This is some political ghetto. Rallies are needed to increase pressure on the authorities and not to gather under cameras,” Gennady Gudkov of A Just Russia Party was quoted by the daily as saying.
“We will not go to any park,” Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin said. “We will go to Russia’s White House, Manezhnaya Square, the Kremlin, the Federation Council and the Prosecutor-General’s Office – to those bodies of power, against which we have concrete claims. We will go to a park only if unsanctioned tree logging or any other illegal actions start there. The authorities invented the analogues of Hyde Park as a reservation in order to reject us to organize our mass rallies in those places, where these or those bodies of power are located.”
“This is an absolutely blind alley to elbow protesters from the city’s centre for them not to be seen,” an MP from the Communist Party in the State Duma, Vadim Solovyev, said. “Moreover, this demonstrates that the authorities are afraid of people and do not want to hear them. Generally speaking, everybody is tired of hypocrisy and all attempts of civil servants to control protests will only pour oil on flames.”
The leader of the non-registered opposition party Other Russia, Eduard Limonov, also expressed confidence that nobody will visit places chosen by the authorities.
Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, on the contrary, believes that Sokolniki is an ideal variant. “There are only pluses, it is close to a metro station, not far from the centre and it is easy to find. Moreover, it is clean, there are special stages and benches. Not too high-power audio systems can be installed there. We have even pavilions there in case of bad weather.”