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On Wednesday, thousands of opposition supporters staged a "March Against Executioners," in support of political prisoners. According to difference estimates, the opposition gathered 8,000 to 15,000 participants. The associates of opposition activist Alexei Navalny used it as a start of the election campaign of their possible nominee for the post of city mayor.
In the morning, before protesters began to gather in Moscow's Kaluzhskaya Square, the organizers of the March Against Executioners had been summoned to a prosecutor's office, the Kommersant reported. Solidarity member Pyotr Tsarkov and Left Front activist Yevgenia Tretyakova who had applied to City Hall for the march, were warned that the participants should not carry the images of officials "placed in improvised prison cells," which are standard banners at protest actions. They were also warned that the police had been informed aboud planned provocations and the organizers were asked to prevent the violation of law.
However, the march was peaceful, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes. The writing on T-shirts, flags, and banners showed that the composition of the recent Opposition rallies remained the same: Alexei Navalny's supporters were marching under People's Alliance flags, "Solidarity" had orange banners, anarchists had red and black flags, while nationalists carried black, yellow and white banners. Obviously the protests are becoming more political and less civil, the newspaper said. The number of persons having no distinguishing symbols was quite small.
The main march theme concerned the persons arrested in the so-called Bolotnaya Square riot case, and all the groups of protesters were carrying the portraits of the arrested, the RBK Daily writes.
They also carried slogans on the cases of Pussy Riot, Khodorkovsky, Taisia Osipova and Daniil Konstantinov. There were other themes at the Opposition rally aside from political prisoners. This time, the associations of teachers, doctors and champions for the rights of sexual minorities were quite active. The crowd was carrying the flags of anarchists and communist organizations, "Solidarity" and three new political parties which would try to represent the interests of "angry cityfolk" at the Moscow elections in 2013 and 2014.
Alexei Navalny was one of the heroes of the protest action, the Novye Izvestia notes. Groups of rally participants chanted now and again "Navalny is our mayor," and leaflets were distributed in the crowd urging Muscovites to participate in the election as observers. Many banners called for replacing the incumbent city administration. Shaking hands with everybody, Navalny smiled and replied to the words of approval and support: "I'm OK. Thanks, guys." When asked to say a few words, he responded by chanting: "freedom to the May 6 prisoners."
NGOs trying to circumvent the law on "foreign agents"
Sources told the Kommersant that non-governmental organizations had found a way to circumvent the law on "foreign agents." They officially give up foreign funding, but their personnel simultaneously work in specially created commercial bodies which receive funds from aboard. The NGOs called this plan "a forced measure," which might fail to save them the authorities' aggression.
The revised law on non-governmental organization introduced the notion of "a NGO performing the function of foreign agents" in the summer of 2012, the newspaper reminds.
Under the law, "a foreign agent" is an organization which receives funding from abroad or from Russian legal entities that have foreign funding, while simultaneously participating in "political activities."
After the adoption of the laws that hold back civil activity, there followed their arbitrary use, said the Committee of civil initiatives /KGI/ in a statement signed by former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and 26 members of the committee. "The vague definition of "political activity," resulted in law-enforcement bodies' detecting it "in the protection of rights of citizens /"Memorial"/, the holding of seminars /the Moscow school of political studies/, the organization of round tables /the Kostroma center for support of public initiatives/, research /association of independent centers for economic analysis/ and sociological polls /Levada Center/.
Forming the public opinion which can influence the authorities' decision is regarded as a political activity. The law even hit the organizations taking care of sick people and cranes. "It is becoming dangerous to develop any activity independent from the state," the KGI said.
"A NGO-foreign agent" should be listed in the Justice Ministry's registry. A source told the Kommersant that several NGOs which had engaged in rights activities and could have found themselves subject to the operation of the law, had found a way to bypass it. The director of one of such organizations told the newspaper on conditions of anonymity that the plan was simple. The mainline NGO fully renounces cooperation with foreign partners and is funded with Russian money. Simultaneously, it registers its affiliate which officially takes orders from abroad, but does not fall under the NGO law. "Meanwhile, the same persons work and receive salaries in both organizations," the source explained. About a dozen and half NGOs are already operating under this plan.
"It's a forced measure for NGOs, but we shouldn't underestimate the degree of aggression from the other side. We can do anything, but if there's a wish to put pressure on us, it won't help," said Grigory Melkonyants, deputy executive director of the Golos association. Golos has already faced administrative responsibility for its unwillingness to be listed on the registry of "foreign agents" but it does not intend to make use of this plan for alternative operation. According to Melkonyants, circumventing the law is fraught with information pressure and "more serious accusations," for example of scheming.