Russian Opposition Joins May Day Festivities

Garry Kasparov at the May 1st event.  Image by Kirill ByutnerA May 1st opposition demonstration in St. Petersburg has ended in a celebratory rally and rock concert. As the Sobkor®ru news agency reports, marchers met in Pioneer Square to hear speeches and music, and to celebrate the May Day holiday.

Actor Aleksei Devotchenko, a member of the United Civil Front party, opened the day by suggesting that opposition leaders shorten their speeches and hand over the stage to the musicians. “What is there to speak of, when the patriarch advises [the faithful] to vote for Putin and Medvedev, and they perceive it as their due,” he said. “You don’t have to be a Solomon to see all of this regime’s illegitimacy.”

Garry Kasparov, who leads the United Civil Front, spoke next, noting that the labor holiday was also being marked by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which he said has “ransacked all of Russia.” “United Russia is not only a party of street thugs, but of cowards,” he continued. “Look at how they try to defend themselves from us,” he added, nodding in the direction of assembled law enforcement. “They remain nothings, in spite of their billions, while we have culture, history and our country behind us. The day will come, when the opposition walks through the streets and reclaims the country,” he closed.

Maxim Reznik, the leader of the St. Petersburg branch of the Yabloko party, thanked all those who expressed support while he was imprisoned in pre-trail detention. He announced that the “dissenters” who protest the Kremlin are ruled not by hatred in their activities, but by love of their country and their city.

Andrei Illarionov, an independent economist, used his time to commemorate all the people imprisoned for political reasons who could not take part in the May 1st celebration. He noted that there can be no more important slogan than, “Freedom for political prisoners,” and said that the opposition should remember those behind bars during all its events and meetings.

A number of other opposition leaders and prominent personalities also spoke at the event, which was followed by musical festivities. Attendees listened to performances by Mikhail Borzykin of Televizor, SP Babay, the Mukhomory, and number of other groups.

The May 1st holiday was also marked by countrywide rallies of the Communist Party, as well as smaller regional gatherings by United Russia, Yabloko, and other organizations.