Moscow Police Raid ‘Strategy 31’ Office, Promise Arrests

Police detaining Strategy 31 participants on Triumfalnaya Square, May 31, 2010. Source: Kasparov.ruOn the eve of a national opposition protest in defense of free assembly, Russian law enforcement agents have raided the organizational offices of Strategy 31, reports.

Other Russia party member Aleksandr Averin said 20 police officers armed with automatic weapons broke into the office near Moscow’s Belorusskaya metro station on Wednesday, breaking both the door and a window.

Another Other Russia party leader, Nikolai Avdyushenkov, said four activists have been detained – Konstantin Makarov, Marat Salakhiev, Dmitri Kulkov and Alena Kapotina.

“It’s obvious that today’s search is connected with tomorrow’s action on Triumfalnaya Square,” said Averin, referring to the traditional meeting place for Strategy 31 participants. “Members of law enforcement agencies are trying to frighten supporters of free assembly in carrying out the orders of their superiors.”

“It’s particularly worth noting that there was also a raid on the headquarters of Strategy 31 on January 30, prior to the last action on Triumfalnaya. It’s true that, at that time, the police officers behaved correctly. Is this really how the renaming [of the ‘militsiya’] to the ‘politsiya’ has had an effect?” Averin asked.

There were three separate raids in Moscow on January 30 that affected the Other Russia party: on Avdyushenkov’s apartment, on the apartment of a party activist in the village of Medvedkovo, and also on Strategy 31’s organizational headquarters. The raids were carried out in connection with a criminal case against members of the organization under suspicion of involvement in race riots near the Kremlin last December.

Regardless of whether the raids are meant to scare away Strategy 31 supporters, Moscow city police said on Wednesday that they intended to arrest anyone who shows up at tomorrow’s rally on Triumfalnaya Square, which has not been officially sanctioned.

“The city mayor’s office proposed several different areas to hold the rally to organizers of this event; however, traditionally and consciously entering into conflict with the authorities and law enforcement agencies, Limonov did not turn down the places chosen for him and called for people to come to Triumfalnaya Square independent of the decision by the authorities,” police spokesman Viktor Biryukov told reporters.

“Police officers have every basis to arrest and place Limonov and other active supporters of provocational actions in police holding facilities,” he added.

Biryukov also said police would be asking those gathered at Triumfalnaya to walk over to Pushkin Square, where Strategy 31 co-organizer Lyudmila Alexeyeva plans to hold her own, sanctioned version of the rally.