Human Rights Activists to Pull Out of ‘Strategy 31’

Lev Ponomarev (right). Source: Grani.ruThe Russian opposition’s largest protest movement, Strategy 31, has been dealt a possibly fatal blow after For Human Rights head Lev Ponomarev announced that human rights activists who have participated in the movement up until now will no longer do so after the next rally on March 31.

On March 28, Ponomarev wrote in his blog that the rights activists will be taking up another cause in place of the defense of free assembly. “We are proposing holding a last rally under the name of ‘Movement 31’ or ‘Strategy 31.’ In the future, we won’t be holding rallies on the 31st date. We have diverged in concept from [Strategy 31 co-founder Eduard] Limonov’s group and propose no longer using the 31st date; moreover, our very concept of a rally is changing,” he said.

The group of activists now plans to lend their support to an initiative to ban United Russia – the country’s largest party, led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – that has sprung up in the city of Izhevsk.

“We have discussed this issue with lawyers and found that there is no direct legal path to liquidate United Russia, but in places it’s possible to set up organizational structures in case they violate the law,” Ponomarev explained.

The activists say they wish to hold rallies to this end on a regular basis but not latch onto a specific date.

“Our task is to unite the forces of all those who are dissatisfied with the political system that has been created and who are prepared to take control of future elections,” Ponomarev added.

According to, 1200 people gathered at a rally in Izhevsk on March 19 to support a ban on United Russia. At the end of the rally, participants issued a call for “the citizens of Russia” to begin a national campaign on April 9 to ban the party.

Until October 2010, Strategy 31 rallies in Moscow were organized by Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Left Front representative Konstantin Kosyakin, and Other Russia party leader Eduard Limonov. For more than a year, the city refused to sanction the rallies and instead proposed alternative locations that would have isolated the protests from public view. The group split apart after Alexeyeva reached an agreement with city authorities to obtain sanction for a rally on Triumfalnaya Square with a limit of 800 participants. Limonov and Kosyakin insisted that no such limits should be imposed, and since then dual rallies have been held on the square on the 31st of each date – one sanctioned and one not.

Earlier this month, Alexeyeva announced that she and other human rights activists would be holding their sanctioned Strategy 31 rally on Pushkin Square, separate from Limonov’s. “We think that there will be more participants at a rally on Pushkin Square,” Alexeyeva said at the time. “In addition, we don’t want for there to be any confrontation.”