Anti-Putin Report Confiscated
Published: June 22, 2011 (Issue # 1662)
In an apparent clampdown on political opposition during the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, the authorities made what looked like mass preventive arrests, following and harassing opposition activists. The police also seized 5,000 copies of the investigative report “Putin. Corruption” co-written by opposition politicians and former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov that was intended to be distributed during the forum.
On Friday, 20 people — mostly members of The Other Russia, some with their spouses — were detained as they were leaving the Russian National Library, where author Igor Boikov, a member of The Other Russia and the Russian Union of Authors, held a showcase event for his book of short stories.
Those detained, including Boikov, were taken to a police precinct and charged with using obscene language in public, an offense punishable with a fine of up to 1,000 rubles ($36) or up to 15 days in prison.
After being held overnight at the precinct, they were taken to court on Saturday afternoon. Their cases were subsequently sent to their local courts for later hearings.
The arrests were made after the police failed to persuade the organizers to cancel the event at the National Library. According to The Other Russia’s local chair Andrei Dmitriyev, the police told organizers that “Boikov” was in reality a pseudonym used by Nemtsov, who would attempt to promote his report “Putin. Corruption” there instead.
“The organizers said, ‘No, Boikov is Boikov;’ they called Boikov and asked him to come along, it was absolutely ridiculous,” Dmitriyev said.
Dmitriyev said the OMON special-task police stationed itself near the National Library on Friday morning, despite the fact that the event was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. that day.
Boikov, who comes from Dagestan, based his book, called “A Life Lived Not in Vain,” on his experiences in the North Caucasus.
Earlier Friday, The Other Russia’s Igor Chepkasov and Solidarity Democratic Movement’s Marina Kuznetsova were detained near the Primorskaya metro station on their way back from an appointment to collect a banner for the National Development Forum, organized by The Other Russia as an alternative to the Economic Forum at the Park Inn Pribaltiiskaya Hotel on Saturday.
Chepkasov said that soon after they had collected the banner, they were approached by plainclothes men who introduced themselves as operatives of the counter-extremism Center E, and were taken to a police precinct.
Chepkasov, who was also held at the precinct overnight and taken to court the next afternoon, said he was charged with “talking loudly, waving his arms and using obscene language.”
According to the activists, the arrests were possibly made in an attempt to prevent Saturday’s conference, which featured the party’s leader Eduard Limonov.
Moscow-based Limonov said a car carrying him and three other party members was stopped by the traffic police on the border of the Leningrad Oblast for a document and vehicle check. It looked like a routine check, he said, but one of the activists heard a policeman reporting by phone that the passengers “fit the description.”
Limonov also said he was followed by plainclothes men in cars while in St. Petersburg.
Although the OMON truck and several police vehicles, including a bus used for the detainees, were parked near the hotel, the conference proceeded with no arrests made. Later in the evening, the police attempted to enter an apartment where 25 participants in the conference had gathered.
According to the activists, the police ordered them to open up, knocking on the door and threatening to break it down without giving a reason for their arrival. When the activists refused to open the door, the police retreated.
Three activists of the Solidarity Democratic Movement, the People’s Freedom Party (Parnas) and the Russian People’s Labor Union (RNDS) were detained while distributing “Putin. Corruption” near the site of the Economic Forum on Friday. They were charged with harassing passers-by and using obscene language in public.
“The arrests are absolutely illegal, because distributing reports doesn’t require any notification or authorization from the authorities,” Nemtsov wrote in his blog.
Also Friday, plainclothes policemen seized 5,000 copies of the report brought to the city, the RNDS movement said in a news release.
The same day, Nemtsov wrote a letter to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, where he described the seizure of the reports as a “theft” and called for the officers responsible to be punished.