In Russia, you can’t hold a public gathering or protest without a permit. Okay, a lot of places have similar laws. I can understand this even if I don’t agree with it. But according to Vremya Novosti, the local court in Tver district in Moscow set a “precedent which threatens to turn into new accusations that the Russian government is violating civil freedoms.” Not only is holding non-permitted gatherings consider illegal, now it’s also verboten for journalists to cover them. “According to the [court’s] ruling, journalists, who enter unsanctioned protests or marches to make their reports are equated with the participants in these protests and violators of the law.” Nice.
The case involves Andrei Stenin, a photo correspondent for RIA Novosti, who was charged with participating in an “unsanctioned protest” in December in front of the Presidential Administration building. If by “participating,” you mean entering the crowd to cover it, then Stepin was participating. He was fined 500 rubles. Granted, it’s a paltry fine, about $20, or basically the cost of two mega-cappuccinos and a piece of cake at the Coffee Bean near Chistye Prudy. But the amount of the fine isn’t the issue. It’s the reason for it. Basically, the government now has the legal means to test the philosophical question: if a protest occurs and it’s not in the news, did it really occur? This is one more verification that the powers that be are the true postmodernists.
But not to worry. In a statement, Vladimir Kolonoltsev, the head of the Moscow branch of the Internal Affairs, said “for law-abiding citizens, who participate in protests, officials of the city police always closely follow and act strictly in accordance with the law.”
Really!? Tell that to Artem Buzenkov a blind kid who found himself treated in “strict accordance with the law.”
However, yesterday’s ruling of the lower court became a precedent only in relation to journalists. But in recent history there are known cases when the police acted far from “carefully following the law” with those citizens who by chance find themselves in an unsanctioned civil action. For example, as Vremya Novosti reported, in December 2008 Artem Buzenkov, a blind student from Podmoskovya came to the capital to go to the theater and exiting onto Triumfal square next to the metro station Mayakovskii found himself in a “Dissident’s March,” which OMON officers actively dispersed. The unsuspecting blind student fell into their earnest hand. He was convicted of participating in an unsanctioned protest and fined 500 rubles. True, the city court interfered and completely exonerated the blind student who didn’t accept his fate and sought the restoration of his good name.
Time will tell if Russian journalists will be so lucky. I suggest they add a white cane to their repertoire.
You Might also like
By Sean — 2 years ago
Recent reports in Vedomosti and RBK dovetail nicely with the editorial I’ve translated below from the folks at OpenLeft.ru. Vedomosti predicts that in 2016 Russia’s economy will only worsen—the price of oil will be cheaper, inflation higher, incomes lower, and the ruble weaker. Along these lines, RBK evaluates the growth of social protests in 2015 and suggests that the trend will only continue after the new year. These social actions are a different animal from the protests of 2011-2012. Then Putin could simply wait out angry urbanites with only yielding to a few minor, and mostly cosmetic, concessions. The subsequent tightening the screws effectively neutralized the more radical remnants.
But Putin did something else in 2012 that was no less important to neutralize the threat from the streets. He shifted his constituency away from the cosmopolitan urban classes to the so-called “silent majority” of the working classes in the provinces. This Nixonian move incorporated heavy doses of populism, patriotism and conservative identity politics. Putin’s “populist turn” never contradicted elite rapaciousness. It was never meant to. Elite acquiesces was the other side of coin, and in many ways only continued, not contradicted, the tenor of his first two terms. And until recently, this unity of opposites worked.
As the editors of OpenLeft.ru write below, the social protests of 2015 symbolize the potential fracturing of the “Putin consensus.” It is this splintering of “national unity” that poses the greatest threat to the system. This is not to say that the Putin system is teetering on the precipice as many would like to imagine. Rather it looks to face challenges that expose one of the “third term’s” inherent weaknesses—the system’s lack of political and economic flexibility and dynamism. One of Putin’ successes has been his ability to sell “stability” as legitimization for his continued rule. Now legitimacy is under pressure as “stability” slides into ossification. As the editors suggest, in the context of the economic downward slide, attenuating those pressures might require pitting the two inherently contradictory elements of the “Putin consensus” against each other.
Editors, 25 December 2015
Summing up the past year
The system Putin built wants to appear unchanging: it is based on “stability”, that is, the illusion that there is no alternative to its policies and authority. Analysts’ numerous apocalyptic prophecies signaling the impending collapse are the flipside to “stability.” This past year has witnessed the end to “stability,” but the collapse has not occurred. Instead, a third option between stasis and disaster has prevailed: The quickening oscillation of a downward spiral.
The main elements of the Putin system remain in place, but it’s clearly obvious this very system cannot cope with the deep and extensive crisis. It’s a crisis of incomes of the population (their unprecedented fall since the 1990’s); the crisis of the social sphere (the authorities’ rousing populist statements are not able to conceal their deadly policies of austerity: pervasive “optimization”, budget cuts and the increased pressure on the public sector, and the freezing of pensions); the crisis of regional budgets, upon which the federal center unloaded the main burden of social spending; and the crisis of the Putin economy and its inability to find new engines of growth.
In the context of contracting incomes Putin’s politico-economic system can no longer conceal its predatory nature. The novelty of the past year has been the attempts to resolve budget shortfalls while at the same time filling the pockets of officials and businessmen close to the government with the help of new taxes and fees. It’s not just the Platon system, which provoked the most significant social protests this year, but also tax increases on small businesses, the introduction of paid parking, and additional charges for utilities. The population will pay, that is those who still have something to pay with, for the crisis and so that state corporations and Putin’s friends will have “a very large amount of money.” The conflict is unequivocal: the minority of haves are against the majority of have-nots.
This conflict is becoming more pronounced. It’s not just about the truckers’ protests. The number of labor protests is rapidly growing. According the Center for Social and Labor Rights (TsSTP), the number of protests has increased by more than a third, 37percent, compared to last year, and more than half, 53 percent, to previous years (2008 – 2013). Petr Biziukov, an analyst at TsSTP, concludes that the quantity of protests has transformed into quality. “Physicians’ protests across the country, as well as the truckers’ protests comprised dozens of regions, and showed that the new kind of protests will be connected by a network rather than by local actions. Interregional, multisectoral and even intraregional actions arise more often. It seems that in this instance, the transition from local (isolated) protests emerging in disparate industries to networked actions uniting workers and organizations from different industries, cities and regions under the same slogans is a qualitative shift in the Russian protest movement.”
The “patriotic” consolidation over the last two years, the only purpose of which has been to mask the fundamental conflict of Russian society—the minority haves against the majority have-nots—has stopped working. The “Crimean Consensus” presaged this rift. Surveys show a decline in the public’s confidence in the media which throughout the “third term” has played a major role in maintaining the illusion of national unity against numerous internal and external enemies.
Boris Nemtsov’s murder and the perpetual “Bolotnaya Case” has completely demoralized the urban White Ribbon movement. However, though today’s urban middle classes are forcibly denied political rights, it doesn’t mean that they will not try to go back into the streets. This return, however, won’t be a simple replay of 2011-2012 but will be tied to the current crisis. Only time will tell what form it will take: part of a broader social coalition against austerity or an attempt to mobilize around the 2016-2018 election cycle.
The “Putin majority’s” potential collapse contributes amazingly to Russia’s cynical and unprincipled foreign policy which experts prudently call “the predominance of tactics over strategy.” Faced with a deadlock in the Donbas, Russia “has shifted the theater of war” and rushed into Syria to restore relations with the West. For the Kremlin, the bombing of Syria is a trump card in the “Great Game”, but it is by no means a game for Syrians: it’s a horrific civil war, the end of which Russia’s participation only delays, and whose bombing results in civilian deaths. Russia’s bombs are no less deadly than those of the United States, England, and France.
It’s unknown how much longer the authorities will be able to spin their adventurous imperialism for “restoring Russia’s place in the world.” To keep its own citizens eyes on the illusion that the Syrian adventure is “a war without consequences,” the ruling elite has resorted to regularly falsifying the numbers of military casualties. Another glaring example of this information strategy was the two weeks of deliberate deception about the true cause of the passenger deaths in the A321 Russian airliner over Sinai. In Russia itself, the mass production of external enemies has acquired the traits of a petty and despicable farce. The harassment of Turkish citizens in the last weeks of the year are an especially disgraceful page in this history.
The accelerating economic and social crisis exposes the existing regime’s limited room for maneuver and its stunning lack of flexibility. At the present moment it is practically incapable of reforming itself, or at least, significantly restraining the elite’s appetites. The regime with the country in tow can only barrel downward and bitterly defend “their own” from public criticism, intensify repression, defiantly refuse to make concessions to demands from below, and cut off any possibility for unauthorized political participation from above.
The country enters a new year fearful of the still hidden future, but the “grapes of wrath” are clearly ripening.Post Views: 757
By Sean — 9 years ago
I think I finally understand why the Kremlin was so hell bent on securing Yuri Luzhkov’s continued domination over Moscow politics: the weather. Yuri Mikhailovich can control the weather. Or so he promises. According to Time,
For just a few million dollars, the mayor’s office will hire the Russian Air Force to spray a fine chemical mist over the clouds before they reach the capital, forcing them to dump their snow outside the city. Authorities say this will be a boon for Moscow, which is typically covered with a blanket of snow from November to March. Road crews won’t need to constantly clear the streets, and traffic — and quality of life — will undoubtedly improve.
This won’t be Luzhkov’s first foray into the Promethean. In 2002, Moscow’s Grand Prince pushed a project to reverse the flow of the Ob River to irrigate Central Asia. Needless to say, the people of Central Asia are still parched. Luzhkov is also known for shelling out $2-3 million to the Russian Air Force to seed the clouds around Victory Day and City Day. With a city budget of $40 billion, $2-3 million is minuscule price to pay for a sunny day. “Well, we should do the same with the snow!” Time quotes Luzhkov from a speech he gave to farmers in September. “Then outside Moscow there will be more moisture, a bigger harvest, while for us it won’t snow as much. It will make financial sense.” The total cost to keep the snow at bay all winter is estimated to be $6 million, half of what the capital shells out to clear the streets.
While Time calls Luzhkov’s attempt at playing weather warlock “his zaniest plan to date,” you can’t fault the boyar too much. He just the next episode in a much zanier history. Weather manipulation research began in the Soviet Union in the 1930s under Stalin’s order and continues up to the present. Putin used weather control in 2003 for the St. Petersburg 300th Anniversary celebrations. In September, China deployed 18 planes to “spray cloud dispersal chemicals” to prevent bad weather during its recent 60th Anniversary celebrations.
Creating clear holiday skies is not its only application. According to James R. Fleming, during the Cold War both the US and Soviet Union saw weather manipulation as a potential weapon.
Howard T. Orville, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s weather adviser, published an influential 1954 article in Collier’s that included a variety of scenarios for using weather as a weapon of warfare. Planes would drop hundreds of balloons containing seeding crystals into the jet stream. Downstream, when the fuses on the balloons exploded, the crystals would fall into the clouds, initiating rain and miring enemy operations. The Army Ordnance Corps was investigating another technique: loading silver iodide and carbon dioxide into 50-caliber tracer bullets that pilots could fire into clouds. A more insidious technique would strike at an adversary’s food supply by seeding clouds to rob them of moisture before they reached enemy agricultural areas. Speculative and wildly optimistic ideas such as these from official sources, together with threats that the Soviets were aggressively pursuing weather control, triggered what Newsweek called “a weather race with the Russians,” and helped fuel the rapid expansion of meteorological research in all areas, including the creation of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which was established in 1960.
The American war machine even implemented “weather warfare” during the Vietnam War. Between 1967 and 1972, the American military shelled out $3.6 million a year to have planes fly more “2,600 cloud seeding sorties” to “reduce the trafficability” on portions of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as part of covert operations “POPEYE” and “Intermediary-Compatriot.”
In present day Russia, it seems weather manipulation is mostly for adding sunny and clear skies to their “palaces on Monday.” Not everyone is keen on the idea, though. Russian environmentalists are up in arms over the idea of “banning” snow from Moscow. They fear that such a drastic alteration of Moscow weather patterns will have long term disastrous effects. The plan still has to pass through Moscow ecology department and discussed with suburban residents since the snow will be dumped on them. However, given the mayor’s political weight, there is little doubt the plan will pass. Man’s destined domination over nature will not be denied.Post Views: 629
By Sean — 9 years ago
A definitive narrative is forming in the Russian mainstream press about the Markelov-Baburova murders. This narrative says that it is unlikely that Colonel Yuriy Budanov has any connection to the murder because he has the most to lose. In fact, the quick finger pointing at Budanov is exactly what those crafty killers want us to do! As Aleksandr Kots writes in Komsomolka:
It would be no surprise if the real murderers were actually counting on this reaction. Their aim was probably not so much the man’s death as the uproar that would follow. And there is no doubt that this crime will draw as wide a reaction as the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya — it was staged too “successfully” and professionally. “Russia releases a war criminal who, upon gaining his freedom, starts taking revenge,” they will begin to say in the West. “Here is the true demonic face of the Russian authorities,” fugitive extremists and oligarchs of (exiled businessman Boris) Berezovsky’s caliber will chime in. “We did warn you!” And within Russia there will be a great torrent of accusations from human rights activists of every stripe, driving yet another wedge between the Caucasus and the rest of Russia to the beat of an invisible conductor’s baton.
Isn’t this the same line of reasoning the authorities gave for the Litvinenko and Politkovskaya murders? That the political murders were carried out by some nefarious force with the hopes of damaging Russia good name? Now I’m not saying that Kremlin Inc. (I’ll leave that to the Washington Post to make those insinuations) or that even Budanov is responsible (though I still think he is the logical prime suspect. Still, one must acknowledge that Markelov had a long list of enemies.), but this excuse is getting a bit old. In fact, it is a bit strange that the pro-Russia and Russophobic contingents appear to converge on the idea that there is a greater conspiracy behind every killing.
Another interesting addition to this narrative appears to be an effort to turn Baburova from collateral damage into a bona fide target of the killer. Kots throws out this theory:
As for slain journalist Anastasiya Baburova, she probably came under fire by chance, being next to the lawyer at that fateful moment. Incidentally, theories are already circulating that the hit men might also have been targeting (journalist) Yuliya Latynina, who not so long announced that she had received death threats. It is possible that the perpetrators mistook the young girl for the famous journalist, to whom she bears a certain resemblance…
Do we really need to feed Latynina’s paranoid narcissism? I hope that this nonsense doesn’t gain any traction beyond blurting out theories. Talk about feeding the beast. Just wait until the Western media gets a hold of that one. Especially since tying all of Russia’s political murders into a singular, nicely knotted narrative is already in the air . . .
Stanislav Markelov was buried yesterday at the Ostankinskii cemetery in Moscow. Around 200 people attended the jurists funeral in silence. There were no eulogies or speeches at the request of Markelov’s brother Mikhail. After the funeral Henry Reznik, the president of the Moscow Lawyers’ Guild, said a few words to reporters on behalf of his colleagues. “It’s clear that this is revenge. This crime is not against an individual and not against lawyers. It is against the state. This is an insolent demonstration of murder that occurred two steps from the Kremlin.” Indeed an attack on a Russian lawyer is also a strike against the legal system at large.
Several friends and colleagues gathered to bid farewell to Anastasia Baburova. Her parents arrived in Moscow to claim her body. She will be buried in her native Sevastopol.
Despite these solemn tributes to Markelov and Baburova, the politics of their memory has inflamed emotions, especially among Russia’s anarchist/anti-fascist community. Police detained 30 out of the 300 mostly anti-fascist youths who marched in an unsanctioned protest through the center of Moscow. A few anarchists smashed some shop windows and bashed escalator lamps as they fled into the metro. The outrage is apparent in this marcher’s response to those shocked by the “violence”
Honestly, I could not get my head around why they were so obsessed with those windows and bits of plastic, which at most are worth one thousandth of a commercial bank’s daily profits, when two very good people had been murdered and these people weren’t even strangers to the marchers.
Police halted a more subdued march in St. Petersburg. In Novosibirsk, a group of anarchists were attacked by a group of skinheads armed with “wooden clubs.” Chto Delat has more on antifa protesters confrontations with police.
Finally the murders have brought of another issue: whether journalists (and lawyers for that matter) should carry arms to protect themselves. Alexander Lebedev thinks so. The owner of Novaya gazeta (and now the new owner of the London Evening Standard which he purchased a 75,1 percent stake for £1) called on his reporters to carry guns. “The authorities don’t take seriously their responsibilities for the safety of Novaya Gazeta staff,” said Lebedev. “If the FSB is unable to guarantee the protection and safety of our journalists, we will try to defend them ourselves.” In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Lebedev expanded on his reasoning.
“You tell me. … We have three options. The first one–to leave and turn off the lights … The second–to stop working. In other words, to stop writing about the special services, corruption, drugs, construction, fascists; to stop investigating the crimes of the powerful structures. Just to stop working! … The third option is to somehow defend ourselves. The state cannot defend us. It just cannot! It has gigantic defense budgets, a huge number of agencies. But, in general, it is busy doing its own business.”
Indeed, Novaya especially has suffered “war-like casulties” over the last few years. Baburova is the fourth Novaya jounralist (the others being Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Anna Politkovskaya) to suffer a violent death since 2001. Unsuprisingly, the police shot down this idea saying “the more guns, the more disorder.”
In regard to who might have caused the latest incident of disorder, the trail is dead cold. The police have little evidence to go on. They have no witnesses who saw the killer. Images from security cameras don’t reveal the his face (he was wearing a ski mask anyway) but investigators are still working with the video. The killer didn’t even drop the gun which is characteristic of professional hits. The only hard evidence the police have are the bullets that downed Markelov and Baburova.
Given this, it already looks like these brazen killings are on track to becoming like other Russian political murders: unsolved.Post Views: 645