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How Moscow's vice mayor responded (or not) to outreach from June 12 protest organizers: A transcript

Source: Meduza
Yevgeny Berg is arrested during the June 12 march in Moscow during a phone conversation with Vice Mayor Alexander Gorbenko.
Yevgeny Berg is arrested during the June 12 march in Moscow during a phone conversation with Vice Mayor Alexander Gorbenko.
Andrey Borzenko

Police arrested more than 400 people during a peaceful protest against fabricated criminal cases following the end of the case against Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov. Among those arrested was Yevgeny Berg, a journalist who also served as one of the protest’s organizers. When police arrested him, Berg was on the phone with none other than Moscow Vice Mayor Alexander Gorbenko. That call was the final stage in a series of unsuccessful attempts on the part of the protest’s organizers to negotiate with Gorbenko and receive government approval for the event, which would have created a much lower risk of arrest for protesters. Those attempts began when the organizers called for dialogue on the TV channel Dozhd and Gorbenko subsequently threatened to submit a complaint to prosecutors, claiming they had made no attempts to negotiate with the government. The turning points that followed are transcribed below.

Tuesday, June 11

Journalist Ilya Azar texts Gorbenko

5:37 PM

Gorbenko: What do we do now

6:52 PM

Azar: I’ve left the organizing group for the June 12 march

Azar: I’m counting on you to ensure people’s safety tomorrow when they go out to Chistye Prudy and walk to Petrovka so that nobody gets arrested

Gorbenko: Ok

Protest organizers post a public message

“We understand that many of you were prepared from the beginning to join an action even if it was not government-approved and that many of you still intend to do so. We have made the decision to attempt to make this event safe: we have made contact with Vice Mayor Alexander Gorbenko and scheduled a meeting with Vasily Oleinik, the first deputy chair of the Regional Security Department. The meeting will take place at 8:30 PM. We will attempt to negotiate the route of tomorrow’s march with them.”

Wednesday, June 12

Azar announces an ominous clarification from Gorbenko

“Update: For the sake of fairness, I’ll note that Gorbenko says his “ok” referred only to the first message I sent in my response to him.”

Yevgeny Berg is arrested while speaking with Gorbenko on the phone

Gorbenko: Yes.

Berg: Hello, Alexander Nikolayevich?

Gorbenko: Yes, yes.

Berg: Hello. This is Zhenya Berg. I was in that meeting with you yesterday, the last-minute one. Do you remember?

Gorbenko: Yes, yes.

Berg: So yesterday you said that everything would be all right. What’s going on? Right now, before my very eyes, people are being dragged out of the Hermitage Garden because they’re standing around eating ice cream! They’re getting people on Strastnoy Boulevard, on all the boulevards. Violent arrests. Ordinary people without posters, without anything. What’s going on?

Gorbenko: I’ll take a look now at what’s going on. No posters, no nothing?

Berg: Nothing at all. Right in the Hermitage, right now. Oh, they’re arresting me now. [To police] Listen, I’m on the phone with the vice mayor! [To Gorbenko] They’re arresting me right now. There, I’m arrested. Even though I was just standing there. Wouldn’t you like to talk to these gentlemen from the police, Alexander Nikolayevich?

[Berg is taken away to a police van]