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(en) Protests against neoliberal reforms and repression against anti-authoritarians in Russia

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 19 Jan 2005 16:14:55 +0100 (CET)


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Dear friends! -- During last 9 days, Russia has been shaken by protests unseen since the
"rail wars" of 1998, when embittered miners blocked railway connections
around the country. Little surprise, that in some cities anarchists and
their friends organizing and participating to these protests have been
targeted with a fierce repression. We need your help now! In this message,
you will find information about repressions in Samara and Perm, and
information how you may help in case of Perm. I have also included lengthy
background information for you to understand what these protests are about.
To stay updated, read http://russia.indymedia.org and http://www.avtonom.org
Contents of this message:

1) Introduction

2) Protests against social humiliation - at last! (Translated from
russia.indymedia.org)

3) Protest in St. Petersburg 15th of January

4) Repression in Samara

5) Perm protest timeline, repression and solidarity call

1) Introduction

Free social benefits are one of the few remaining cornerstones of what used
to be the Soviet social state. Most important of these are free municipal
transport and free drugs for plenty of different group of people - for
example in many cities groups as different as World War 2 veterans,
Afghanistan veterans, victims of repression, victims of Chernobyl disaster,
orphans, children of families which 3 or more children, disabled, heroes of
Soviet Union, pensioners, police officers, security service officers,
heroes of socialist work and other groups are entitled to free transport...
in Moscow, more than 1/3 of the metro traffic is by those entitled to free
transport. Besides drugs and transport, there are also benefits such as free
telephone and free travels to sanatorium for some of the aforementioned
groups. Often, of course, these services do not exist in practice due to
"lack of funds".

Neoliberal theorists propagate replacing free benefits with their monetary
equivalents, and no doubt this has been on the agenda of Russian liberal
reformers and their consultants from IMF and World Bank since the day one
after fall of the iron curtain. But liberal reformers do not take into
account

-inflation (of course liberal reformers are against inflation adjustments in
principle)

-that unlike free goods, money equivalent may always end up to some
official's pocket

-sluggish administrative apparatus of Russia, due to which many regions have
not yet any mechanism, nor finances to compensate revoked benefits

-bankrupt state of half of the regions of the federation

-and that money in the household may always be spent by someone for whom the
benefit was not meant

Really it was the short success of parliamentarian "communists" in Russia
and protests such as "rail wars" and factory occupations in the late
nineties which held the liberal reformers back for a while. But when Kreml
managed to split communists and push liberal right-wing opposition out from
Duma altogether in December 2003 Duma elections, it was time to get reforms
back to agenda - in full steam. In the flush of victory, KGB clique who has
seized all power in Russia has prepared unforeseen set of reforms, besides
monetarization of benefits also partial privatization of elementary
education and abrogation of laws on freedom from the impressments and
conscriptions are on the agenda.

Monetarization laws were passed hastily during summer months during just a
couple of weeks, in a time when most of the people who will be most hurt due
to reforms were out from the city - millions of people in Russia are
partially or completely dependent on subsistence farming to make their
living. An unforeseen coalition uniting veteran organizations, liberal
right, small independent trade unions, human rights organizations
representing interests of victims of repression and "communist" parties
organized rallies against reform - but these gathered small numbers and were
mostly completely ignored by public at large. Due to annihilation of
independent TV in Russia during last couple of years, public had no any idea
whatsoever what the monetarization was to mean in practice. No person who
had observed the lame protests of last July could foresee the storm to begin
in January, when laws began to be executed!

What are the amounts of money we are talking about? Currently 28 dollars is
one ruble, for one euro you must give 36 rubles. In Leningrad region, those
who used to enjoy free benefits get a lump compensation of 230 rubles a
month. From this, they should compensate previously free telephone (a lump
sum of 80 rubles a month for unlimited amount of calls). But for example a
local train from Gatchina to Saint Petersburg costs 42 rubles for one
direction, and bus is even more expensive. In Voronezh, city government
decided to compensate revoking benefits with a payment of 100 rubles.
Cheapest city transport costs 4.50 rubles. But if a pensioner has a
subsistence farm plot outside the city in order not to die in hunger, he may
travel there only twice a month with this money.

11th of January - in Dzerzhinsk of Nizhni Novgorod region, 400 veterans and
disabled demonstrate illegally against cancellation of free benefits

12th of January - 1000 pensioners and disabled demonstrate in Penza,
demanding payments of the financial compensations.

13th of January - 2000 pensioners demonstrate in Stariy Oskol, demanding to
give benefits back

13th of January - 300 demonstrate in Krasnogorsk (Moscow suburb)

14th of January - 400 in Kaluga

14th of January - 400 in St. Petersburg

14th of January - 1500 in Penza

14th of January - 200 in Cherepovets

14th of January - 200 in Rybinsk

15th of January - 1000 in Himki (Moscow suburb)

15th of January - 300 in Kazan

15th of January - At least 8000 in St. Petersburg

18th of January - 1000 in Perm

18th of January - 5000 in Tomsk

and this is just a fraction of the collective, more or less spontaneous
protests. And individual protests, such as non-payment and assaults on
conductors, are even more widespread. In some cities, municipality is
dispatching only male conductors, since they consider that female ones are
too vulnerable to assaults from pensioners and disabled. In Kaliningrad,
city government hastily returned free travel to police when a bunch of cops
had mishandled a conductor.

Anarchists have been caught by surprise by both scale and militancy of these
protests

- just as all other political groups. In Moscow, this surprise is also due
to particularities of the city - already in the nineties Moscow strongman
Yuri Luzhkov showed door to

IMF consultants, and ever since his politics has been that of maintaining
the Soviet social state. This is possible because Moscow is 25 times richer
than poorest Russian regions,

"Moscow privilege" is also a crucial method of dividing working class and
maintaining stability of the center of the empire. It was clear from the
beginning that no free benefits will be cancelled in Moscow. And the same
strategy was chosen by Moscow region authorities as well - but not in
regards of the inter-city travels!

So since 1st of January, Moscow became closed for pensioners and everybody
else from suburbs that formerly enjoyed free traveling benefits. Soon these
cities became a hotbed of radical protest - in Himki of North-East a picket
by 50 pensioners snowballed to 200 persons attempting to blockade Moscow-St.
Petersburg highway, when passers-by joined spontaneously. Moscow and
regional authorities made a hasty deal of temporary return free travel for
inter-city commuters from 15th of January onwards, but protests are still
planned in more than 20 cities of the Moscow region.

Authorities have made quick concessions in a plenty of other cities as well:

-In Samara, pensioners were promised a free transport until end of January

-President of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimer promised to increase compensations

-Governor of Kuzbass promised free travel to pensioners

-In Vladimir oblast, price of local trains for pensioners was cut down to 20
rubles

-In Penza, free traveling benefits were returned

-In Tyumen, pensioners were returned all benefits

-Same in Yekaterinburg

-Same n Primorsk region of the Far East for all who used to enjoy free
travel

-Same in Almetevsk

-Same in Chelyabinsk

-In Chukotka of Far East, all benefits were returned in regards to municipal
payments and drugs as well

-In Bashkiria, 100% increase of the compensations

-In Saint-Petersburg, metro suddenly decided to pass all pensioners in by
free, without any published decision.

In the end, it must be said that some of the poorest are also benefiting
from the reforms. Most often this is the case in distant countryside
locations, in which elderly have never been able to benefit from free travel
or drugs. There, extra of few hundred rubles is welcomed. So anarchist
demand as part of these protests may not be simply return to the previous
situation.

2) Protests against social humiliation - at last! (Translated from
russia.indymedia.org)


by Sofia 16th of January 2005

Already before passing the laws about so called "monetarization" of social
benefits in State Duma last summer, there were attempts to launch massive
protests against de-facto abolition of the social guarantees. But because
state propaganda pressed to conscience of citizens with full force, giving
reforms as a real improvement of the social situation of millions of people,
who are using various social benefits (from free transport to free drugs),
attempt to gain necessary attention to these serious reforms of already
anti-social state policies failed.


These laws have been executed since 1st of January, and since then those who
used to enjoy benefits have been facing the consequences. During first weeks
of January there were non-legalized protest actions all around the country:
in Himki (Moscow suburb), Saint-Petersburg, Samara, Penza. Vladimir,
Barnaul, Stavropol, Tatarstan, Udmurtia... in every city there were hundreds
or thousands of participators. While in the beginning of the protests mostly
return of the transport benefits were demanded, soon angered protesters were
demanding resignation of the government and president Putin.

Meanwhile, government was putting all the blame on badly working regional
powers. KPRF (Communist Party of Russian Federation), RKRP (Russian
Communist Workers' Party) and even nazbols were accused of the protests -
powers are not ready to acknowledge that in this situation people do not
really need any organizers.


In some cities OMON broke up the rallies, but mostly powers seem to be
scared and holding back. According to official mythology, pensioners are
"everything for us" - we love them, respect and are taking care of them by
any means. Pensioners and other elderly people are also the most disciplined
constituency, always used by deputies, governors and the mister president
himself.



This is why protests of the pensioners, which powers first attempted to
ignore by silence, have already become and object of games of spin-doctors.



3) Protest in St. Petersburg 15th of January

by Pyotr Raush of St. Petersburg anarchist league



Around 1000 persons gathered 12 AM at Smolna in and illegal, spontaneous
meeting. After 2 hours, without any previous agreement with city authorities
crowd moved to Suvorovsky prospekt, blocking the traffic. Uprising square
and further continued to Nevsky Prospekt in which traffic was blocked as
well. Only few of the slogans concentrated to current issue of the
benefits - most of them had a general, political character: "Down with
Putin!",

"Down with the governement!", "Down with Matvienko!" (St. Petersburg mayor),
"Down with the regime of plundering!", "Revolution!", "Governement to
resignation!", "Putin to resignation!", "Shame on Putin!", "Down with the
autocracy!", "Down with Putin's gang!", "Enough plundering the people!".



During the movement, number of participators kept growing, when
demonstration arrived to Sadovaya street it was already more than 5000
people. There colon united with those who had protested at Gostiniy dvor
since 1 PM - in the beginning there were 400 persons there but number were
constantly growing during the day, when group united with the main march it
was already more than 2000 persons.



Crowd of 7000 blocked all movement in the crossing of Nevskiy prospekt and
Sadovaya street. Speakers stood on parapet of underpassing, and invited
everybody to upcoming protests of 22th of January (commemoration of Bloody
Sunday 1905 at Gostiniy dvor), 25th of January (6 PM at Lenin statue next to
Finland direction railway station) and 26th of January (9:30 AM at Isaak
square).



Simultaneously, there were around 1000 people in Victory park, blocking
movement in the Moscow prospekt. From there, crowd moved to memorial of
Leningrad siege. During movement, one angered driver drove over three
protesters, one of whom died.



Vast majority of the protesters were not in any political organizations,
although in victory park there were orators from liberal "Yabloko",
pro-Kremlin left-wing "Motherland" and communist groups - there were
activists of several authoritarian communists groups, anarchists and human
rights organizations in the march from Smolna to Sadovaya -

but number of these "politized" elements was not more than 200 from the
total. All of the political structures were caught by surprise with the
scale of these protests. All agitation materials were read with big interest
in the crowd. In the beginning, police was indifferent with the protests,
although they became more active during the day. But they could not arrest
anybody.



4) Repression in Samara



15th of January, activist of the NGO "For protection of the rights of
electorate 'Voice"" Aleksander Lashmakin was taking a ride in a small bus
with Aleksei Ivanov from the place of spontaneous protests against
monetarization at crossing of Novo-Vokzalnoy street and Moscow highway.
Suddenly, some plain-clothes officials stopped bus, they rushed in and took
A. Ivanov and A. Lashmakin, without showing any documents.


A. Ivanov and A. Lashmakin were taken to police station of industrial region
of Samara.

Lashmakin was brutally beaten up, he was beaten to face, his mouth was shut
with

tape and he was targeted with traditional "Dyba" torture, where he was
hanged between two chairs and beaten.



Then both were placed to a cell, where everyone arrested during the day were
waiting for the court next day. Cops shouted "you all will suffer because of
him (Lashmakin)", and sprayed teargas all around. This was stated by people
sent to court together with Lashmakin yesterday, 18th of January in the
court session. Eventually case against Lashmakin collapsed in the court.



(Shortened and edited from message of Lydmila Kuzmina from the courthouse)



Note: Lashmakin is not a member of any anarchist group, but he has been
cooperating with anarchists a plenty of times, he was also one of the most
active people in the radical ecological protest camp of Perm in the summer
of 2004. He deserves all support we may give!



5) Perm protest timeline, repression and solidarity call



18th of January in perm, meeting began 12 AM. In crossing of Lenin and
Kuybyshev streets there were at first 1000 people gathering. First meeting
did not disturb any traffic, but soon police gave orders to take away car
with loudspeaker - this provoked people who decided to have a blockade.
Mounted police gathered around the meeting.

13:15 participators of the meeting began gathering signatures, demanding

1. Free transport to all categories of people, who enjoyed this right until
1st of January 2005

2. Preserve all other benefits, revoked by law number 122 and decisions of
the local powers.

3. Financing abovementioned demands from city and regional budgets

Until 13:45 number of participators grows up to 2000 persons. Police is
still neutral. 14:00 Meeting moved to crossing of Lenin and Popov streets,
and blocked movement to the single bridge over river Kama, which unites two
parts of the city. Officials from regional administration invited
representatives of the meeting to discuss all problems, but this was not
enough for the participators. This radical move caught police by surprise,
and they began bringing in "avtozaks" (cars for transport of prisoners) in
case mass arrests were to be needed.

14:10 organisators of the meeting announced that in case powers do not take
measures to fulfill demands today, next day they will blockade railways.
People were discussing should they move to Kama bridge or stay in the
crossing.

14:15 Police chief of the Perm region Yuri Gorlov came to meeting, and
invited people to discuss with governor Oleg Chirkunov, claiming that
governor may not have "constructive discussion" in such a noise. Police
blocked way to bridge over river Kama with buses. But eventually 14:20
governor came to meeting himself.

14:20 governor Oleg Chirkunov announced, that he will not discuss with
people in the street, and he invited everybody to building of the
administration. Meeting voted on the question should they go, and majority
decided that they are only going to discuss issues in the street.

14:31 After speech of Oleg Chirkunov, officials of traffic police made a
chain to blockade way of the meeting to Kama bridge.

14:40 Chirkunov still refused to talk with the meeting. To question "are
free benefits returned to pensioners", Chirkunov answered honestly "No".
Crowd surrounded Chirkunov from every direction.

14:50 police was given command to arrest organisators of the meeting. Among
them Roman Yushkov, activist of local Anarcho-Ecological Resistance, and
another participator of the protest camp of summer 2004 Yuri Bobrov. People
react to arrests by taking governor Chirkunov as a hostage, and they demand
changing Chirkunov to arrested anarchist and other activists.

14:59 police agrees to change arrested activists to governor, everybody are
freed.

Your solidarity is needed!

It is no surprise, that Perm administration is dedicated to punish local
activists for this humiliation. According to current information, they are
planning to arrest Roman Yushkov from Anarcho-Ecological resistance, and
Anastasiya Maltseva and a number of people from other groups. Yesterday 18th
of January, Aleksandr Reznik from independent trade union "Solidarnost" and
his wife were already arrested, and they are kept in Lenin region police
station.

Local activists ask you to call to city administration, and to ask you to
refrain from opening criminal cases against activists and to demand
liberation of prisoners. Telephone numbers of the city administration are

+7-3412-12-64-57

+7-3412-12-64-57

and

+7-3412-34-94-91


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