Published: March 5, 2014 (Issue # 1800)
Concerned citizens gathered to protest Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine on St. Isaac’s Square Sunday. The protesters found themselves under attack by men wearing Cossack costumes or hats, and OMON riot police. Some of those gathered were beaten, pelted with excrement and insulted by pro-Kremlin opponents, while more than 30 were detained, most without obvious cause.
The Legislative Assembly’s opposition deputies Maxim Reznik and Olga Galkina arrived near the Mariinsky Palace, the seat of the Legislative Assembly, to announce the creation of an anti-war committee and invited those gathered to sign a statement of intent.
However, when reaching the gardens opposite St. Isaac’s Cathedral, where hundreds had already assembled, Reznik urged people to leave due to the presence of pro-Kremlin agitators and the threat of imminent arrests.
Reznik invited them to the Field of Mars the following week, by which time he said he would secure authorization for a rally from city authorities. Reznik said the authorized protest there would be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 8. He left soon after, but people remained in the gardens.
Several policemen walked among the crowd announcing that the “event was illegal” through a megaphone and warning the assembled of their responsibility and that arrests would follow for failing to obey police orders. The officers did not respond to questions as to which statues the gathering allegedly violated or which police orders were being referred to.
A number of protesters had sheets of paper or placards reading “No to fratricidal war,” “I have relatives in Kiev. I don’t want them to be killed. No to war!” “Stop the war. Leave Ukraine in peace,” “Putin, don’t heat up! People of Russia and Ukraine refuse to die for your imperial ambitions and your oligarchs’ vested interests. Stop the intervention!”
A number of men, some dressed as Cossacks, were quick to assault the protesters and destroy the placards, while deputy Vitaly Milonov, who has made a number of anti-Ukrainian statements since the Euro Maidan protests began in Kiev in November 2013, was seen walking around the gardens insulting protesters.