Russian rights activists split over date, cause for ‘new’ rallies

Russian rights activists headed by Moscow Helsinki Group leader Lyudmila Alexeyeva have not yet decided on the date or venue for rallies they want to hold instead of the traditional campaigns in support of Article 31 of Russian Constitution which guarantees freedom of assembly.

A rally in support of Article 31 will be held on March 31 on downtown Pushkin Square for the last time. Alexeyeva agreed to the sanctioned limit of 3,000 people. Leader of Other Russia opposition movement Eduard Limonov was not granted permission to hold a separate rally on Triumfalnaya Square, the favored protest spot of the opposition.

The Russian opposition split in late 2010 when rallies were officially sanctioned for the opposition group.

“We want to add a demand for free and fair elections to the demands for free assembly, thus there is no sense in holding these new rallies on the 31st day of each month [that has one],” Alexeyeva said.

“We’ve discussed this issue, but there is still no certain decision, in particular, we have not chosen a day [to hold the new rallies],” she said, adding that in her view, the new protests should be held every month. The new rallies certainly will not be held on Triumfalnaya Square, Alexeyeva added.

Rallies in support of free elections will be held at least until the December parliamentary elections, Alexeyeva said, adding that if rights activists obtain any positive results, they would switch over to rallies in support of other articles to the constitution, for example freedom of the press.

In his turn, Limonov confirmed he would not join Alexeyeva’s group and reiterated that the struggle for freedom of assembly is his major goal. “We have not obtained freedom of assembly, it is obvious…The struggle continues. We will continue to rally on Triumfalnaya and demand for freedom of peaceful assembly,” the opposition leader said.

It is important to “heal the wounds” in the opposition movement which were caused by the recent split, Limonov added.

Another opposition activist, coordinator of the Left Front movement, Sergei Udaltsov, expressed regret over the fact that the split has not yet been remedied.

“We should understand that we must hold one rally understandable to everybody, and we should heave all efforts into this…otherwise an overflow of such rallies may occur,” Udaltsov said.

MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) 

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