Politkovskaya Forum Shut Down

An international forum to be held in memory of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been dismantled by authorities, although organizers from the Fund for the Support of Tolerance, who put on the event, have refused to bow to the state. The forum was to be held in Nizhny Novgorod on October 5th and 6th, in honor of the October 7th anniversary of Politkovskaya’s brutal execution in 2006.

The gathering planned to bring together Russian and international human rights activists for face-to-face meetings, and had scheduled evenings of remembrance with the people whose stories and lives Politkovskaya covered in her writing. Among other events was a series of concerts, with performers arriving from as far as Italy and the United States.

The Novaya Gazeta reports:

It all started with an attempt to shut down funding. The personal bank account, which held the forum organizer’s assets, was frozen two weeks prior to the meeting. According to Oksana Chelyshevna, an organizer of the forum, and Other Russia activist, bank officials told the forum leaders that the bank wanted nothing to do with Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, the head of Russia’s division of Amnesty international.

Participants in the forum, including presenters from Amnesty International, the International Organization Against Torture, Human Rights Watch, Russian civil and human rights activists from Chechnya and Ingushetia, victims of terrorist acts in Beslan and Nord-Ost, came anyway. And even prepared to stay in the pre-booked rooms of the Oktyabrskaya hotel, if only…they didn’t turn out to be flooded [although guests already staying the hotel experienced no such problems].

The neighboring hotel was 500 meters away. And that’s where the foreigners and domestic guests of Nizhny Novgorod headed. As a precaution, of course, they called ahead: asking if there was room. Rooms were available, but in ten minutes (and that’s exactly how long the trip from the Oktyabrskaya lasted), it turned out they were gone. At the third hotel, the forum organizers managed to lodge the participants, but only for one night: the guests were expelled from their pre-paid rooms the next morning. The hotel cited an overwhelming influx of people.

The press-conference scheduled to take place in the “Central” hotel also did not take place, regardless of prior agreements for use of the conference room. An hour before the arranged time, with apologies, organizers were put out into the street, for reasons known only to the hotel management.

“What does this tell of – of the authorities’ fear or of their level of idiotism? Perhaps, it speaks of the level of mastery of execution of the local authorities. Undoubtedly, the order is coming from Moscow, and the degree of fervor depends on their understanding. Here, they are simply smashing heads,” indignantly commented Oksana Chelysheva.

UPDATE: Oct 6. The four arrested organizers have been released.