Opposition Marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg Nov. 24-25

The Other Russia coalition is organizing two marches this weekend in opposition to the regime and policies of Russian president Vladimir Putin heading into the parliamentary elections on December 2. On Saturday the 24th in Moscow, the march will begin at 1pm local time. The St. Petersburg march on Sunday. The primary slogan of the marches is “For Russia, Against Putin.” Others are “No elections without choice,” and “Your time has expired,” the last a reference to Putin’s statements about retaining power in Russia after his term as president ends. Other opposition marches are planned across the country on the same weekend, including in Nizhny Novgorod, Orel, Pskov, Tula, Tomsk, Ryazan, and Kaluga.

The planned route of the Moscow and St. Petersburg marches will lead to the Central Election Committee offices in each city. Other Russia leaders will present a petition stating that the elections are neither free nor fair and that the Committee members should remember their duty to the Russian constitution. These march routes have been refused by city authorities, whose members are themselves involved in the campaign on behalf of Putin’s United Russia. This is a clear conflict of interesting since opposition parties are involved in the events these functionaries are attempting to invalidate. In Moscow, the Union of Right Forces party (SPS) will march with The Other Russia. In St. Petersburg the march will also be joined by representatives of the SPS and Yabloko parties.

As usual, official and extra-official harassment of the opposition organizers and activists has preceded what The Other Russia calls its “Dissenters’ Marches.” Today, on the 23rd, the Moscow offices of coalition member the United Civil Front, led by Garry Kasparov, were raided by counter-terrorism forces. They said they were acting on the basis of secret decrees, which they refused to present. The officials said they were looking for “materials dedicated to disrupting civil order.” (They instead seized 5,000 stickers reading “Vote for the coalition list”. UCF director Denis Bilunov stated that this was done with no legal justification.) A UCF employee called the police, who upon arrival refused to discuss anything with the UCF staff, saying only that “everything [the counter-terrorism officers were doing] is justified.”

There have been dozens of other documented cases of arrests, beatings, and intimidation against Other Russia activists in recent weeks, leading up to this weekend’s marches. For example, the main opposition newspaper in Ste. Petersburg was raided today as well. As has been seen before in Samara and elsewhere, computers will be confiscated and the newspaper essentially shut down. These tactics are less prone to attract the attention of the western media, unlike the police violence against several marches earlier in the year.

Like just about every political group in the country critical of Putin and his government, the Other Russia coalition and its member parties have been shut out of the parliamentary and presidential elections. The Other Russia has asked voters to spoil their ballots instead of showing any support to the corrupt official system.