Russian Opposition Sums Up 2008

Members of the Russian political opposition rallied in Moscow on December 29th, summing up the major political events of 2008 in a vocal demonstration. As the Sobkor®ru news agency reported from the scene, between two and three hundred protesters gathered at the Chistiye Prudy.

Activists from the Smena (Change) and Oborona (Defense) movements met with members of Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front, the National Bolshevik Party and the Free Radicals movement. According to Moscow city authorities, some 250 militsiya officers were on hand during the protest. Organizers showed a reel of video and photos from protest actions that took place in 2008.

Vsevolod Chernozub, an activist from the Free Radicals movement, told the assembled group that 2008 really started with the March presidential election. “The opposition tried to make the elections competitive, but neither [Vladimir] Bukovsky, nor [Garry] Kasparov, nor [Mikhail] Kasyanov were allowed to participate in the elections,” he said. “Then, those who didn’t agree chose to protest by not participating in the farce.”

The screen then showed members of the opposition protesting by ruining their ballots.

“After the election,” Chernozub went on, “the dissenters took to the streets in a protest march, where many participants were arrested and beaten.” The screen then showed images of riot police attacking demonstrators during the March 2008 March of Dissent.

“The next episode which distinguished the year was Vladimir Putin’s appointment to the post of Prime-Minister,” the activist continued. “Putin, by leaving [the post of president], didn’t go anywhere.” Dmitri Medvedev’s election as president came with many words and promises, but little change, the speaker said.

Chernozub went on to list other events from the year which he said exemplified present-day Russia: the case of former Yukos attorney Svetlana Bakhmina, who was kept in lockup after giving birth in prison; the case of Vasily Aleksanyan, a deathly-ill former Yukos vice-president who was finally allowed out on bail for 50 million rubles, a figure he and his family could not afford; the “accidental” killing of Ingush opposition leader Magomed Yevloyev in police custody; the severe beating of Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper.

Videos and images from the December 14th March of Dissent in Moscow, and from car-enthusiast protests in Russia’s far east were then shown on the screen. OMON riot police could be seen assaulting demonstrators on the screen.

Participants changed slogans including “We need another Russia!” and “Down with the chekist regime!”

Organizers also announced that a new March of Dissent would take place on January 31st 2009, but did not provide full details on the protest.