Russian Opposition Facing a Reroute
June looks to be an exciting month in regards to the Russian opposition campaigns raging in Moscow. Russian president Vladimir Putin and his prime minister Dmitri Medvedev have both committed to closing down protests in an attempt to stop complaints against their policies and the current government.
Putin was reinstated as president this past March in elections that many claim were fraudulent. Protests have filled the streets of Moscow since the election and have ebbed and flowed with the current political debates in the country. Arrests and brutality have both accompanied campaigns aimed directly at the president and his policies.
In May President, Putin and the State Duma attempted to push through a bill that would increase the fine for participating in unsanctioned protests from a few hundred dollars to over the equivalent of $32,000. The bill may still pass, having already survived three readings in the state Duma.
The legislation would also ban wearing any kind of mask or balaclava during any type of rally. This debate comes on the heels of a Strategy 31 rally that took place this week. The Strategy 31 organization stages a protest on the 31st day of every month with 31 days in order to speak up for the health of the Constitution’s Article 31, which upholds the right of free assembly, the Moscow Times Reports.
Strategy 31 rallies have been staged since 2009, and this week dozens of protesters were arrested, including the writer Eduard Liminov. Any other protesters attempting to enter Triumfalnaya Ploshchad square, where the demonstration was held, were dispersed and refused entry.
Masks were apparently worn in a recent May 6 rally, in which a few suspects were accused of assualting police officers while wearing balaclavas. The young Andrei Barabanov, one of the suspects, has issued a hunger strike while he is detained. His trial date is set for July.
Demonstrators of all styles have faced increasing obstacles over the last two or three months as police presence and legal restrictions have increased. Protesters planning a June 12 march through Moscow have been forced to take an alternate route. While city hall admittedly approved a march for 50,000, participants it appears that officials are attempting to reroute the march to veer away from the center of town.
Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov has stood by his demands to lead the march through the center of town, using the same traditional route used by Putin in the May Day celebrations held a month ago. The march has been titled the March of Millions, according to RT News.
With the threat of increased fines and the recent memories of the brutalities practiced on protesters on the eve of Putin’s inauguration, it is difficult to tell how peacefully this opposition march will be in just a number of days. Opposition leaders Udaltsov and Alexei Navalny have both stood their ground after arrests and threats. In fact, a top businessman in Russia, Vladimir Ashurkov, plans to find donors to support Navalny’s opposition to oppressive government policies, even though there has always been a traditional ban on businessmen officially funding opposition to the government.
Photo Credit: Anna Plotnikova