Kasparov on May 18 Detention

Other Russia leader Garry Kasparov provides the following statement on the events around the detention of dozens of people en route to Samara to attend the May 18 March of Dissent.

A large group of us were traveling from Moscow to Samara from Sheremetyevo 1 Airport. I had a group of people traveling with me and so did Eduard Limonov. Famous human rights leader Lev Ponomaryov was also with us. Then there was a group of journalists, including people from The Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Reuters, and others. There were 27 of us. As soon as we arrived at the airport it was clear we were going to have trouble. For the first time in my long life of travel I faced a police major at the check-in desk! He had a long list of names and he worked down the list and confiscated our passports. He didn’t hesitate a second to take mine, then Limonov’s and Ponomaryov’s.

Then he said he wanted us to go somewhere, refusing to tell us why. The man who was addressing us was “Captain Adamov,” although it was obvious from the way he spoke and acted that he wasn’t a captain or a policeman. I called Karina Moskalenko and while I was on the phone with her, “Captain Adamov” commented, “she had a similar problem at Domodedovo [airport]!” I asked him if he worked there as well and he said no, that he’d read about her incident on the internet. I described him to Karina on the phone and she identified him exactly.

Several of our group already had boarding passes. Alexander Rykhlin, Sasha Osovtsov, and Marina Litvinovich left to try to board the plane. But a man in a black suit appeared and waved frantically for them to be intercepted and turned back.

We were stuck there in limbo, not arrested but not allowed to advance or retreat. 13 of us had no passports or tickets and could get no sensible comment from the authorities. We had a lawyer in our group and he also failed to get a statement of any kind. It’s amazing, these people don’t care at all about what laws they break. They have total immunity and know they can get away with anything. We tried to simply leave but our way was again blocked. I asked, “are we under arrest?” “No,” he said, “but you cannot leave the area.” We stayed in this de facto detention for five hours in the boarding area. The WSJ and Telegraph reporters were trapped along with us. The other 14 had passports and were allowed to leave but stayed and waited for us.

Finally, at 11:20am, they told us they were checking our tickets to see if they were counterfeit! They had all this paperwork and protocol to go through. It all ended at a quarter-past one. The last plane we could have taken to get to Samara in time for the march was at 1:30. The moment the gate closed, we were given back our passports and allowed to leave. We did not, however, receive any refund for our tickets! Perhaps the Putin police state is even more bankrupt than we thought.

The events in Samara prove that civilians are no longer in control in Russia. The security apparatus is in charge from the top to the bottom, from Putin to the streets. The mayor of Samara wasn’t in charge of his own town and all the papers he signed approving our march were worthless. Now we hear Putin at a press conference saying we don’t bother him at all, but that our protests must be organized under the law. But the Samara march was officially approved, and we weren’t even permitted to travel to the city hosting the event.

Around 500 people showed up in the streets of Samara despite the worst efforts of the security forces. United Civil Front executive director Denis Bilunov was arrested yet again, making it two days running. We have an inside joke that we wish Denis were half as dangerous as the authorities seem to believe he is. Today he and two activists, plus FOCUS correspondent Boris Reitschuster were picked up by a man in civilian clothes with Interior Ministry papers. The charge this time was “looking like potential terrorists.” They were released several hours later.