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(en) [Pga_europe_resistance] Azov-summary of the campaign

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 2 Oct 2003 20:18:18 +0200 (CEST)

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Hi people, this article written for Abolishing the Borders from Below
mostly summarises the previous updates. Photos from Azov actions:
and www.duplo.narod.ru
City rising against methanol terminal
Backround: Azov is a city of 90 000 inhabitants, located 45 kilometer
southwards from Rostov-na-Donu,
which is the biggest city in South of Russia. Azov is planned site
of liquid chemicals terminal project, which dates back to 1996 but
was halted until April of this year due to legal obstacles.
Terminal, mainly meant for methanol export, is being built by
Azovprodukt, joint venture by DECAL (51% of shares, a member
of Italian multinational Triboldi) and Roshleboprodukt (Russian
corporation which has 49% of shares). Triboldi already controls
methanol trade in Mediterranean sea, owning 6 other terminals.
The terminal would consist of six chemical storage tanks with
common capacity of more than 20 000 cubic meters, a railway
connection, a jetty for tanker loading and related infrastructure.

According to plans methanol tanks are to be located only 400
meters, and high-pressure methanol pipeline less than 90 meters
from the municipal dwelling zone. People in Molokanovka, suburb
to which terminal is built live in separate houses surrounded by
gardens, from which most of them are dependent due to
permanent economical crisis. According to Russian regulation
safety zone around methanol storage should be at least 1000
meters, in Italy a 7 kilometre safety zone is required. Azov sea,
which is connected to larger Black Sea only by a narrow channel
has an average depth of 4.2 meters only, and only 280 cube
kilometres of water - thus a single accident with a tanker carrying
poisonous methanol load would destroy the sea ecosystem
completely. Shallow water means also dangerous short waves
during storms, which have sunk ships with much less dangerous
loads in the past. Listing numerous legal violations committed
during the project here would mean few people would ever make
it to the end of this article...

Local self-organisation

Since 1996 local inhabitants have organised countless pickets and
rallies against terminal project, 15 000 people have subscribed the
petition with their full personal details. Initiator group for binding
municipal referendum has been founded seven times, city council
has once decided in favour of the referendum and twice it has
make a resolution against the project. However city mayor Evgeni
Lesnyak has submitted under the pressure of regional
government, although he took the post over from his pro-terminal
precedent in last elections by promising not to build the terminal.

Soon after court gave green light to construction in April 8th 2003,
local inhabitants began organising protests. First Rainbow
Keepers arrived to city 10th of June, organising a continuous
information point in the centre of the town. On June 26th, July 3rd,
July 4th and July 7th demonstrations and blockades of the road to
construction hours were organised. From 700 to 9000 people
participated in demonstrations, almost 10% of the local population
participated to the biggest demonstration organised 3rd of July.
The campaign is supported by one local newspaper, and events
got attention of national mass-media. The symbolical protest
camp was set up near the construction place.

>From 7th of July onwards local people, Rainbow Keepers and
Autonomous Action made a continuous blockade on the road
leading to the site of the project, this managed to halt
construction for a while. 10th of July a lorry driver tried to ride
over blockade, injuring one Rainbow Keeper. Soon lorry drivers
found other ways to the site, and blockade took a more symbolical

17th of July in Azov (Rostov region) a meeting demanding an
immediate stoppage of
methanol terminal construction took place. Action began outside
city administration
building 5 PM, some 2000 people gathered altogether. Protestors
shouted "Stop methanol, jail gang of Chuba!" (Chuba is the
governor of Rostov oblast), "There won't be any terminal!" and
"As long as we are united, no one will beat us!". Soon after
beginning of the meeting one participator descended from the roof
of the building with ropes writing a graffiti "War against terminal"
to wall of the building.

Soon participators of meeting recognised how police officers
pulled activist back to the roof
attempting to arrest him and his support, so they went on blocking
all doors of the building shouting "freedom to heroes!" and "today
we are here with placards, tomorrow we will come with spades!".
Redactor of local journal "Chitay-Telenedelya" Yuri Golubev and
Cossack ataman Yuri Kolobrodov mediated with officials, and
protestors managed to get arrested activists freed.

Protest meeting moved to square of the Third International, where
people who have participated
to daily blockades of the road to terminal gave speech. When
people learned how police officials
had attacked senior citizens during blockades and one lorry had
hit one participator
of the blockade (fortunately without serious consequences),
meeting made a resolution and
decided to organise next blockade 21st of July.

Excerpts from the resolution of the meeting

"...participators of the meeting have also decided, that in case our
demands are not fulfilled, we will began civil disobedience
campaign. We will close Rostov-Azov-Starominskaya-Krasnodar
highway. Besides this, inhabitants of Azov will maintain their
constitutional right and freedom to organise a new
protest outside the administration of the city. A strike committee
is about to began organisation of a city-wide general strike..."

"..organisers of the meeting, having noticed high activity of the
citizens, point out that
vast majority of Azov inhabitants who have participated to
meeting have declared that they
are committed to eliminate the ecological danger by dismantling
the terminal and blockading a
federal highway, as well as by boycotting duma and presidential

26th of July there was a symbolical blockade on
Krasnodar-Rostov highway, which was organised by people
protesting against methanol terminal planned to be constructed to
the city of Azov. Because local officials had asked not to organise
a blockade since the problem will be solved anytime
soon, protesters made a purely symbolical blockade just for a
couple of minutes. Some 500 people participated to demonstration
altogether. Soon city mayor Peshkov was spotted in the rear of
the meeting, and he was surrounded by protesters. After some
arrogant answers he tried to withdraw,
but when people began shouting "shame on you!", he had to return
almost crying, and had to promise to stop traffic to construction
site, take care about construction of a bypass road and to
organise a special city duma meeting on the problem of the
terminal. People let mayor go, and shouting "Azov wake up, we
will win, there won't be terminal!" people marched by Moscow
street to the centre of the city.

31st of July police of Azov region decided not to proceed with
criminal charges against two anarchist protestors, who were
arrested for distributing placards in the city. Criminal charges
against Rainbow Keepers who made graffiti on the wall of the city
administration during action 17th of July are still pending.

1st of August city administration sent a delegate to symbolical
blockade of the road to construction site. Delegate announced,
that there will soon be a special meeting in the regional (oblast)
administration on the question of the planned terminal, taking into
consideration resolutions made in popular
meetings 3rd and 17th of July. Before that past mayor had
personally promised, that during research on possible solutions of
the conflict around methanol terminal the road to construction site
will be blocked. There is not yet any signs of this blockade to
appear, but delegate demanded from protesters to
take measures to calm down social tensions in the city.

Increasing repression

In Friday 1st of August, several police officers invaded camp
uprooting tents and verbally abusing participators. Pretext of their
action were false claims by terminal staff that ecological
protesters had stolen property from the terminal construction site.
The same day Andrei Tsarevskiy (Autonomous Action-Rostov)
and Ivan Ovsyannikov (Autonomous Action-Yaroslavl) were
arrested for distribution of posters and leaflets about major
protest of 9th of August, which has promised to blockade
Krasnodar-Rostov highway in case administration has not taken
steps to halt the construction.

In contradiction with police claims, distribution of leaflets and
posters is completely legal.
It is unlikely police had any doubt on this either, since Tsarevskiy
and Ovsyannikov were not fined but they just spent 7 hours in a
police station, during which police was abusing and threatening
activists with torture and burning. Police also promised to destroy
the whole protest camp. In Sunday 3rd of August police tried to
arrest Tsarevskiy another time in the centre square of Azov, but
city dwellers present in the square began protesting immediately
and police had to let him go. During weekend, 3 activists were
also arrested for lack of the registration.

5th of August workers of the terminal tried to destroy blockade
which protestors are maintaining in the supply road every day
during working hours. Seven persons came to blockade by cars,
and began tearing down the blockade armed with night-sticks,
handcuffs and pepper spray. Attackers managed to beat up some
people, but soon protesters set up a human chain with 20 persons,
which attackers could not move. Some protesters were injured,
but nobody moved. Soon attackers, apparently from the security of
the terminal, realised that they are photographed, and assaulted
photographer. He managed to escape, and two chasing guards of
the terminal had an unexpected bath in a swamp nearby. Police
arrived soon, halting the attack of the terminal security and
carrying them away.

6th of August, two Rainbow Keepers were arrested in the area of
the terminal. Vladimir and Evgeni tried to climb to a crane, but
were caught by workers and beaten up, Evgeni had his rib broken.
When protesters learned about this, they organised a meeting in
the gates of the construction site and moved to police station
around 5.30 PM. Protesters shouted "Freedom to our comrades!",
when they learned that Evgeni was imprisoned for five days for
"minor hooliganism", they began shouting "Shame on the justice
In legal terms, hooliganism by definition is an act without any
motivation, which for sure was not case in this political protest.
Vladimir is 17 years old and he was threatened to be sent to
children's camp, but in the evening he was released.

7th of August around 9 am security of the construction site came
to blockade of the supply line of the terminal. Security ordered to
close the protest camp which they claimed to be located to area of
the construction site, and threaded to run over the camp with a
bulldozer. Security failed to show any
documents which could prove that camp was located to area
owned by the company.

There were only few people in camp that time, and they had to
submit to threats of the security. Tents were pulled down, but
after one hour campers came back to set up one tent. Security
moved to pull tent down and to catch one activist, but police
which had arrived refused to arrest her. After this security calmed
down and tried not to interfere during rest of the day. In the
morning of 8th of August security once again moved to pull down
one of the tents, they also hit two persons who had slept in the
tent, and did threat that they will call nazis to attack the camp.
Eventually activists had to close the camp, and move to
"campaign headquarters", and empty building with few hundred
meter distance from the construction site provided by one
inhabitant of the Molokanovki area.

Plain clothes police kept harassing camp almost daily basis by
invading building without search warrant and without showing
their documents, checking documents and arresting people for
several hours, but protests had not to move another time since
pulling over the house would have been too much even for the
local police. Resources of the local police and FSB to clamp down
the protest seem to be limitless, 26th and 27th of August from 9
AM to 7 PM two cars with antenna and retranslator were spotted
near protest headquarter, so obviously FSB was also attempting
to track all discussions taking place in the camp. 29th of August
police try to frame one of the activists for grass possession, local
people reported that day before police had been destroying one of
the countless uncontrolled marihuana plantations in the city, and
now a full sack suddenly "appeared" in the campaign
headquarters. Police had also a doctor with them, checking
campaign headquarter for "infections", forcing
one participator to hospital, from where he was released later
that day without any diagnosis.

In the afternoon of the 8th of August campers organised an action
for comrades arrested 6th of August. People came to police
station with flags and banner "Free Evgeni Chyotov!". A blockade
of Rostov-Krasnodar highway was organised 9th of August,
action began with a rally 11 AM, 12.15 participators moved to
blockade highway, everything lasted until 3 PM. More than 150
people participated to action, blockade was a mobile one which
walked 2.5 kilometres on the highway to one direction and then
back to the city, following the same way.

During meeting and demonstration the following slogans were
scanned: There won't be any terminal! Azov is unpolluted land,
build that terminal to Kreml! Shame on the city mayor! Down with
power and capital! There won't be any terminal here! Today we are
here with placards, tomorrow with spades!
(or alternatively with machine guns) Remove governor Chuba!

There were few skirmishes with police during the blockade,
provoked by police and plain-clothes FSB. A couple of times
police tried to catch speakers but they failed. Three participators
of the campaign were singled out from the march by plain clothes
police and FSB, one of them was brutally beaten by six officials.
In end of the action police officers wrote down personal details of
most of the organisers.

11th of August 7 Am four police officers invaded to camp and
arrested two campaign participators,
Aleksander Zimbovski and Marina Popova. Cops were lead by
officer Dimitri Li Chun Shan, and they did not showed any
documents to prove their identity and for justification of the
arrest. Later people learned that two persons arrested are charged
with "minor hooliganism".

Popova was sentenced to 12 days of imprisonment, and
Zimbovski to 15 days of imprisonment. Prosecutor had 2
witnesses, who gave contradictory testimonies - another said that
action (of 9th of August) went on Kirov street, another said it
was on Mehtok street. Judge K. A. Gordienko did not
allowed accused to use their own lawyer, and public lawyer
provided by the state was denied his legal right to make a closing

When 5 camp activists from Rainbow Keepers, Association of
Anarchist Movements (ADA, Russian section of IFA) and
Autonomous Action went to police station to learn about reasons
of the arrests, they were arrested as well. This wave of arrests is
for sure because of the blockade of the Saturday, police was just
too afraid to arrest people during the demonstration.

In the evening of Monday the 11th, participators of the camp
learned that police stops participators in the street, asks their
documents, takes documents and then arrests people for the lack
of the documents. Arrested people were sent to jail in
Rostov-na-Donu. Dees however did not finished his sentence,
since he declared a dry hungerstrike, and when he was sent to a
hospital due to weakened condition he did not returned to prison.

Stop protests, by any means necessary!

Protest campers and local inhabitants of Azov decided to move
protests from Azov to Rostov-na-Donu 25th of August, since the
Rostov oblast governor Chuba is in any case the main person
responsabile for the ecologically disastrous methanol terminal
project. Aim was to organise a symbolical "funeral of the nature of
Azov", where local inhabitants would lay flowers in front of the
Rostov oblast administration.

This planned ultra-peaceful and ultra-moderate action provoked
repression which reached a completely absurd level. Hundreds of
police were mobilised to stop this "funeral possession". Action
was planned to take place 11 AM in Rostov, but soon after 6 AM
every local train from Azov to Rostov (which is 45 kilometres
north from Rostov) was searched by police, and two blockades
were set in the road connecting Azov and Rostov. Every bus and
mini-bus was searched for potential demonstrators.
Two free buses organised for Azov inhabitants were never
allowed to leave for Rostov. Among dozens of people arrested in
the road were 4 elderly persons, who seemed to be travelling to a
real funeral with their flower buckets, and for sure much more
people who just happened to have flowers with them
for a reason or another were stopped.

Infamous Rainbow Keepers activist Aleksandr "Dees" Zimbovski
was kidnapped by police already the previous day to do the
remaining 8 days from the 15 days sentence he had got from
the protest of 9th of August Dees declared a new dry hungerstrike
immediately after his arrest, and
was eventually released one day in prior end of the sentence,
having fasted without water one week.

Protest campaign headquarters (an abandoned building in Azov)
was raided 7 AM, fortunately most of the people had left for
Rostov in small groups already 5 AM, so only 7 persons were
arrested there. Besides Rainbow Keepers, many delegates from
3rd general meeting of the Autonomous Action which
was finished the day before in a secret location in Azov outskirts
headed for the Rostov. But due to total control at least 12
anarchists were arrested on the road, and only 5 made it to Rostov
- 4 to be arrested later on in Rostov (among them Marina Popova
who was sent to Rostov prison to continue
his sentence for action of 9th of August), and the single anarchist
who made it there could only watch small picket going on from
outside a square, completely sealed by police and guarded by 3
busloads of the notorious OMON and SOBR special forces.

Local inhabitants succeeded a bit better than anarchists, since
one of them managed to make it to the protest with a bucket of
flowers, which was however torn away from him by police on the
spot. Some 20 Rostov ecologists were picketing with this single
Azov inhabitant, together they posed a horrible danger to the law
and order in Rostov oblast. Generally those few lucky ones who
managed to make it to the square were not harassed anymore,
since there was a lot of media present.

Of course police had not any legal pretext for arrests, formally
they did it for "clearing the identity" of people, for which Russian
police has a right to arrest people for 3 hours. But everyone was
kept more than 4 hours, and subjected to abuse, searches,
harassment and FSB interrogations. Some of the arrested faced
serious trumped up criminal charges. One Finnish participator of
the camp was kidnapped to Rostov from Azov, FSB was
obviously trying to find a pretext for his deportation from Russia
although he had not broken any laws.

Unfortunately in the very same morning mindless terrorist act
took place in Krasnodar, only 250 kilometres south from Rostov,
so to some extent public attention was directed out from the huge
police repression which maybe also got some legitimisation due to
terrorists. It is sure that blockades
around Azov had no connection to Krasnodar bombs, since they
were set up hours before explosions in Krasnodar.

End of the camp

Most of the activist have had to leave the camp due to end of the
holidays, but some Rainbow Keepers and Autonomous Action
militants are planning to stay in the spot until October. In another
hand all-out over-reaction by police forces has proven that protest
campaign has really succeeded to make political elite afraid, but
repression has also gained some results, and many Azov
inhabitants are now afraid
to continue protests. 21st of August campaigners were told that
construction is now halted without a time limit, and a commission
to look issue of ecological problems has finally been set up.
Decision by oblast authorities to stop construction seem to be a
real one, but there is also testimony that construction still

Activists leaving the camp had mixed feelings, in another hand
local authorities had effectively managed to clamp down protests,
in latest meeting of September 4th only few hundred local
inhabitants too part. In another hand, decision to stop construction
has legal force, so in 5th of September few remaining camp
participators declared a victory, and that they will continue
organising protests if the construction will continue.

Local organisers also considerably toned down their rhetoric, as
some extracts from the resolution of the meeting of September 4th

"Organisers of the meeting, like always, call to tolerance and
mutual respect between inhabitants of the city and the authorities.
We are children of the same city, and we should live in peace! We
ask all the inhabitants, who have revealed provocateurs, to give
them to authorities. We are not interested about destabilisation.
Organisers of the meeting, who are aware of the high level of
activity among local inhabitants, notice that vast majority of Azov
inhabitants who participate to demonstrations and meetings
have announced that in case powers are not willing to take
concrete measures to fulfil their demands, they will boycott Duma
and presidential elections or support any opposition parties, even
radical ones, which are ready to fulfil their demands."

This "support to opposition parties" was certainly not seen in any
of the previous protests! Resolution for sure reflects differences
between mostly anarchist organisers of the camp, and
self-proclaimed local leaders of the protests, such as
editor-in-chief of the journal "Chitay-Telenedelya" Yuri Golubev,
and leaders of the local Cossack organisation, all of whom have
their own political interests in regards to elections. Although
these were the people inviting anarchists in the first place, they
apparently were not so happy about some of the things anarchists
were doing.

Some young inhabitants of the city decided to organise a local
fraction of Autonomous Action, but it is unlikely that group will
have lots of influence to upcoming agenda of the movement when
most of the anarchists have left. Almost any of the Rainbow
Keeper protest camps face the same dilemma, although in Azov
local people were definitely inspired by some new forms of
protests which anarchist brought around, in the end many of the
campaigns just end up being cards in the hands of competing local
power groups. Few local people are ready to take similar risks as
anarchists, and Azov camp was much smaller than usual protest
camps since warning was received so late - due to these two
factors it was not too hard for police to harass participators of the
camp. The radical rhetoric of July and August about electionary
boycotts and general strikes is mostly gone now, but however yet
it is impossible to say was obvious bluffing by local "leaders" of
the campaign enough to make final
results. It is unlikely, since in the beginning of the methanol
production chain one finds Gazprom, corporation controlling more
valuable share of the natural resources than any other corporation
on earth. From the very beginnings fight was uneven at least.

It will take months until we may see final results (or lack of them)
of the summer actions. But achievements this far show that
besides the widespread pessimism small local anarchist
movement may give valuable help to local people, even when
campaign has practically no any funds.

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