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Protesters in Moscow on July 27 at the intersection of Tsvetnoy Boulevard and the Garden Ring
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Moscow public transport is suing protest leaders for delays caused by traffic closures, even where roads remained open

Источник: Meduza
Protesters in Moscow on July 27 at the intersection of Tsvetnoy Boulevard and the Garden Ring
Protesters in Moscow on July 27 at the intersection of Tsvetnoy Boulevard and the Garden Ring
Evgeny Feldman for Meduza

On August 16, the state-owned bus company Mosgortrans filed a 1.2-million-ruble ($18,050) lawsuit against several prominent opposition activists, in connection with service disruptions allegedly caused by protests on July 27. Mosgortrans is suing Georgy Alburov, Yulia Galyamina, Ivan Zhdanov, Vladimir Milov, Alexey Navalny, Lyubov Sobol, Alexander Solovyov, Oleg Stepanov, and Ilya Yashin. The municipal enterprise “Auto-Roads” has also filed a separate lawsuit for 11.5 million rubles ($172,960).

The same day Mosgortrans filed its lawsuit, the company posted a “explanatory thread” on Twitter. “There were disruptions to routes because of unpermitted road blockings,” the company’s Twitter profile wrote on August 16. “There were complaints about this (people stood around waiting, and the buses never showed up). So we’ve filed a civil suit against the protests’ organizers for 1.2 million rubles.”

In a nutshell, Mosgortrans says the activists were at fault because they blocked the road and delayed bus service, which led to complaints from passengers. Without a lawsuit, the company says, it would have to recover the damages from its drivers, which is the standard practice, for example, when traffic collisions cause slowdowns. “We love (💙) all our passengers, and we’re doing everything to make our service speedy and smooth,” Mosgortrans said on Twitter. The company did not respond immediately to questions from Meduza about the complaints supposedly filed by passengers, and about how often Mosgortrans sues activists after protests.

In its lawsuit, Mosgortrans names routes that couldn’t possibly have been affected by protesters

Meduza obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed by Mosgortrans, which says the company lost money because of service delays. The full amount requested in damages is 1,218,591 rubles and 58 kopeks (about $18,330). Mosgortrans also identifies the routes of 36 different buses, trolleybuses, and electric buses, dividing the routes into two groups.

Mosgortrans says the first 16 routes were “in the protest and marching zone,” which is true for most of these routes, insofar as they intersected Tsvetnoy Boulevard, the Boulevard Ring, and other roads where demonstrators marched and police shut down traffic. One route on this first list, however, doesn’t clearly intersect any of the areas where protesters marched on July 27: the number 39 bus route from Arbatskiye Vorota to the Shchukino District, which supposedly “lost” 13 trips because of delays caused by demonstrations. Mosgortrans calculates that blocked roads along these first 16 routes cost the company almost 685,000 rubles ($10,295), which falls to 642,000 rubles ($9,655), if you don’t include the 39 bus route.

Mosgortrans identifies a second group of “adjacent” routes supposedly disrupted by the protests (without ever explaining in its lawsuit how it singled out these routes). This second list contains bus routes that definitely intersected roads affected by Moscow’s July 27 demonstrations, but it also names routes that weren’t blocked off by police or protesters. Most remarkably, Mosgortrans says it lost 221,000 rubles ($3,325) on disruptions to bus routes 205 and 157, which do not even enter Moscow’s Garden Ring. 

If you remove all the routes that never intersected blocked roadways, the damages claimed by Mosgortrans fall by more than 35 percent from 1.2 million rubles ($18,050) to 775,510 rubles ($11,670).

Text by Mikhail Zelensky

Translation by Kevin Rothrock