EURASIA LIFT

Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Russia: Dissent Turns Into a Solo Act

Posted by Info on 07/01/2011

Under a Russian law on rallies and protests, so-called individual pickets are legal without permits, which the opposition rarely obtains. Single protesters, standing 30 feet or so apart, may hold signs in public.
As the Russian police were interpreting the rules, two protesters standing together were grounds for arrest — even if they came from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Alla A. Kuznetsova, a high school chemistry teacher, stood alone on snowy Simferopol Boulevard on Wednesday. She screwed up her courage and marched straight up to the police. “I want to express my own, personal opinion.,I don’t want people to come close to me.”

As the sun reflected brilliantly off a million tiny ice crystal mirrors on this deep winter day, she unfolded a paper sign that read, “Freedom for Political Detainees.”

On Tuesday 24 opposition activists and 10 pro-Kremlin youths were arrested. On Wednesday, the police detained just three opposition activists and a half-dozen or so from the pro-government camp, in part because of the opposition protesters’ efforts to avoid the youth activists.

“Yet again, the Russian authorities have failed in their obligations to protect the rights to freedom of assembly, a right guaranteed by the Russian Constitution,” said Andrea Huber, Amnesty’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

The ban on assemblies represents a step back for Russia
, after what seemed to be a thaw in the fall, when the authorities suddenly granted permits for rallies that had been banned for months. But after an eruption of nationalist violence in December, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin signaled that street politics would once again be severely curtailed.

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