Other Russia Detained at Airport en route to Samara

Garry Kasparov and others traveling with him were detained for five hours at Sheremetyevo 1 Airport in Moscow this morning while trying to attend the Other Russia Dissenters’ March in Samara today. 27 people were detained or held without passports, including Other Russia leaders Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov and executive director of the For Human Rights Movement Lev Ponomaryov. Several journalists traveling with them also had their documents seized. The plane for Samara departed. The bizarre official excuse for these illegal actions was that the passengers’ tickets were “similar to ones already sold to other passengers.”

We note the pathetic quality of the authorities’ excuses for harassment. They don’t even bother to pretend it’s anything other than pure provocation. As we have documented here, the Kremlin has done everything possible to limit attendance at the Samara march, which is taking place at the same time as the EU-Russia summit in that city. A march that was officially approved by city officials! Official statements from Garry Kasparov and others will follow.

Update: It appears the international media won’t ignore Putin’s latest attempt to crush every shred of opposition. Will Western leaders stand up? From Spiegel Online:

Russian opposition leaders, including Garry Kasparov, were arrested Friday morning on their way to Samara to protest an EU-Russia summit. The Kremlin doesn’t want images of police beating up protestors to be beamed around the world. But Angela Merkel has lodged a protest of her own with Vladimir Putin.

From the Associated Press:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the European Union presidency, complained at the post-summit news conference that opposition activists were being prevented from traveling for the protest.

“I’m concerned about some people having problems in traveling here,” Merkel told reporters. “I hope they will be given an opportunity to express their opinion.”

Merkel’s remark came amid a sometimes fractious exchange between Putin and EU leaders at the news conference over Russia’s democratic freedoms and the government’s treatment of critics.

Putin said his government does not fear protests, but insisted that opponents of the government must abide by the law, and blamed some violence on demonstrators.

And what violence would that be, Mr. President? Other Russia is proud of our perfect record of non-violence in the Dissenters’ Marches. All of the violence has been on the part of the police — much of it very well documented in the press. We appreciate Chancellor Merkel taking notice of this crackdown, but it will take a lot more than hope for us to have a free voice in Russia. As long as EU leaders continue to pretend Putin is a democratic leader in a democratic country their continue “concern” isn’t worth a counterfeit ruble.

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