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Arrests, fines, interrogations, and threats What happened to protest participants in the week following the rallies

Source: Meduza
Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP / Scanpix / LETA

The protests that swept across several dozen Russian cities on March 26 have proved to be the most impressive in recent years and have resulted in large-scale consequences for participants. Numerous detainees were accused of administrative offenses. Criminal investigations have been initiated on accusations of attacking policemen and hooliganism. Pupils and students were chastised at schools and universities. Meduza briefly relates happened in the week after the rallies.

Arrests and penalties

According to the most conservative estimates, police officers detained more than 1,600 people on March 26. The greatest number of arrests, numbering 1,043 people, were made in Moscow. Amongst the detainees were many teenagers. In some cases, people spent hours in paddy wagons and were not allowed to use the toilet.

Almost all have been convicted or are going to be tried on accusations of violating the rules for holding rallies and disobeying police. Dozens of people were subjected to “administrative arrests” lasting anywhere from 4 to 25 days mainly for insubordination. A verdict of violating rally rules carries fines of 10,000 to 20,000 rubles (approximately $177.52 to $354.96) both in Moscow and other regions/cities (for example, Tula, Saratov, and Sochi). Dozens, if not hundreds of such cases have yet to be tried in court. In some cases, for example in Cheboksary and in Rostov-on-Don, police came to detain participants after the rallies. The parents of five schoolchildren in Nizhny Novgorod have been formally accused of failing to fulfill their parental responsibilities.

Aleksey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation was apparently a special target of law enforcement agencies. Almost every one of the foundation’s employees who led online-broadcasts of protests in cities across Russia from the office were put under “administrative arrest”. The office was searched; equipment, flash drives, and some documents were confiscated. Aleksei Navalny was convicted under both articles, sentenced to 15 days in prison, and fined 20,000 rubles (approximately $354.96) in fines.

Criminal cases, interrogations, threats

After the March 26 protests, authorities initiated several criminal cases. In Moscow and Volgograd, investigations were opened into attacks against police officers. In Volgograd, a suspect has already been identified. Witnesses of the attack are being sought in high schools and schools.

In Moscow, the case was initiated only after the fact and handed over to the main department of the Investigative Committee. Investigators began interrogating detainees, amongst them minors, immediately after protest. According to some detainees, investigators promised to set up a new Bolotnoe Square situation and tried to forcibly procure testimony through threats and actions that could be considered torture:

These men sat the guy under the window, opened it completely. It’s not hot outside now. They said that he would sit in a t-shirt and shorts until he testified.

In addition, Moscow investigators initiated a case on hooliganism and are verifying information on the bribery of rally participants. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has circulated information maintaining that many participants went out for mercenary reasons. Perhaps he was referring to the future compensation awarded to detainees by the European Court of Human Rights.

Prevention in schools and universities

“Political information” sessions were held in some schools and colleges: teachers and administration officials told students that they could not attend opposition rallies. Judging by the recordings sent to Meduza’s editorial board (we published some of the transcripts in Russian), students were told that rallies had been paid for and that young people were being used for “dirty political purposes” and hinted that participants would in trouble with the law. For example, students at Astrakhan State Medical University were told at the sessions that they would be filmed by the FSB at demonstrations; a senior at a rural school in the Rostov region warned by a head teacher said that anyone who complains of corruption in Russia ends up dead (she gave the example of entrepreneur Boris Berezovsky and former State Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov). In some schools, for example, in Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg, teachers asked students to take rally photographs off of their pages on social networking sites.

Students in the Samara region were brought to the “Not to Extremism” forum, where the regional governor Nikolai Merkushkin showed them a TV programme featuring footage from various anti-corruption rallies, including from the Maidan and revolutions in the Middle East.

Dismissals and resignations

Meduza has learned of two cases in which people had to quit their jobs after taking part in the March 26 protests. “Arkhangelsk - the city of military glory” journalist Maria Gavrilova went to the rally and posted a video on page on social networking site VKontakte. She told Meduza that, the next day, she was approached by the editor-in-chief of her publication (Meduza’s note: a record of this conversation is at the disposal of Meduza’s editorial staff; the editorial staff of the Arkhangelsk publications could not be contacted) who demanded that Gavrilova take down her posts as per a “signal from above”. When Gavrilova refused, she was told that the employees of the municipal newspaper could not be criticized by authorities and that her actions had compromised “the newspaper’s image”. The editor-in-chief also told Gavrilova that was already on the radar of security services, without specifying which particular structures had taken an interest in the journalist. Gavrilova was told that if she did not delete the post, she would have to resign; the journalist refused to delete and wrote a letter of resignation.

The system administrator of Vladimir’s state monument protection inspection service Aleksei Malinin went out on a one-man protest. According to him, during the protest, he received several telephone calls from work and was asked to stop. The following week, said Malinin in an interview with Meduza, it became obvious to him that he would not be able to continue working in light of the administration’s attitude towards him. He resigned of his own accord.

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