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Russian Opposition Faces Arrests, Fines and Secretive Searches

Russian Opposition Faces Arrests, Fines and Secretive Searches

A shaken Russian opposition leader Ilya Yashin came home to a scene of upheaval and chaos this past Monday. His door had been broken down, possessions were scattered across the space, and some items were missing in his Moscow apartment. The surprise search, which occurred on Monday while Yashin was out, was also the day before a massive organized opposition march was planned in Moscow.

Tuesday’s march was planned after over six weeks of outright activism against reinstated president, Vladimir Putin in streets throughout Moscow. A new law was recently signed by President Putin which raises the fines for participating in unsanctioned demonstrations from a mere $60 (2,000 roubles) to nearly $10,000 (or 300,000 roubles). Officials have made it clear to opposition leaders and protesters that they will not stand for disobedience in any form.

Much of the stiff resistance to any type of organizing is a result of the massive anti-Putin rally which occurred on May 6 on the eve of Putin’s inauguration. The march resulted in at least 400 arrests and some police brutality. Now, as many as 13 opposition leaders have been arrested in connection with the May event, including Yashin, the Moscow Times reports.

The series of house searches is part of a crackdown on opposition leaders. Officials claim that the searches are necessary to look for clues into the violence which ensued on May 6. The question is, why conduct searches in such sneaky and backhanded ways? Especially when we consider that Tuesday’s sanctioned opposition march through downtown Moscow was peaceful, leading to no arrests or injuries.

Rain did pour down over Tuesday’s anti-Putin solidarity march through the center of Moscow, causing the participants to disband an hour earlier than planned. Distrust marks both government officials and opposition leaders during all of these events. A Duma deputy, Ilya Ponomaryov, claims that Putin’s government purposefully seeded the rainy weather on Tuesday in order to curb the enthusiasm of the sanctioned rally. Most officials have dismissed such claims as baseless. Ponomaryov has no way to prove that the storm was planned by officials.

While the weather was unruly in Moscow, Putin’s government proved how serious they are about cracking down on any possible whiff of unsanctioned opposition activity. The same day as thousands marched peacefully through downtown Moscow, three Kemerovo students were arrested for walking down a central street together with white balloons and ribbons. They now face the new protest fines of $9,200 each for marching together.

As the Moscow Times quotes Alexander Kurasov, a head official of United Russia, as saying, “If three of you gathered, then that’s more than one. Prior clearance was essential.” The arrests of the students underline how vague the new protest fine law is. How many people and what actions constitute an unsanctioned demonstration? What kind of activity warrants officials to scavenge through personal possessions? These and other large civil rights questions loom large in Russia under Putin’s reinstated rule.

 

Related Stories:

Thousands of Russians Protest on Eve of Putin’s Inauguration

Opposition Leaders Released Amid Fine Turmoil

Putin Plans to Cripple Protests with New Bloated Fines

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Photo Credit: Bogomolov PL

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18 comments

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7:02PM PST on Jan 25, 2013

This kind of repression is horrible wherever it is.

10:39AM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

And, just how far away from being Russia is the good old U.S. of A.? We already have police breaking down doors and killing people who have done absolutely nothing that deserved it. We are getting federal laws that allow the government to snoop into every moment of our lives. We have had people arrested and beaten for merely being there at the wrong time. How many of those who have grossly violated the civil rights of citizens have been punished? We are a police state.

5:10PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Sounds like the US police reaction to the Occupy movement here, doesn't it? So what else is new?

3:33PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

This is terrible!

1:48PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

What's happening to the opposition in Russia is a right-wingers wet dream. Hey Bubba, let's bash a few heads on our way to establishing a one-party fascist dictatorship in Amerika. When the jackboots come knocking on their doors, the righties will follow one of two paths. They will either gleefully join the thugs and go a-bashin' or they will resist and cry bloody murder when their guns are confiscated and they are labeled as "unpatriotic". Oh, the sweet irony of karma when visited upon ignorant hypocrites.

12:11PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Moral of the story - when you lose an election, get over it!

What makes the "opposition" think that protests are going to change the results?

They can be "anti-Putin" all they want - won't change a thing!

Wait till the next election and try again!

10:39AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Interesting - Russians don't like being screwed by their ruling class any more than Americans, or Canadians, or etc. for that matter.

10:09AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Victims were on May 6th from both parties. There is a mass of video on which policemen beat bludgeons lying, beat on a face to the people who are simply getting in the way of them and similar. To demonstrators who fought with police, the prison threatens, and injured 6 policemen the state presented apartments (at least $150000-200000). Recent case: The chairman of Investigatory committee Bastrykin promised to the journalist "to tear off the head, and then to take investigation under personal control". And this bandit continues to hold the very high position!!!

9:28AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Gee, Outrage at what Russia is doing but nothing about NDAA which gives Obama the right to make a list of US names in the US and have them simply disappear?!?!?!

What a bunch of dolts.

7:31AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

My heart aches for the ppl of Russia who cannot raise their voices without fearing for their lives. I feel sorry bcos no other Govt wants to make enemies with the Russian Govt by pointing that out to them. I just hope that the UN intervenes on humanitarian grounds.

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