‘They got the brunt’ Journalists report dozens more layoffs among city employees in Moscow in response to pro-Navalny protests
Entities under the Moscow Transport Department have laid off several dozen employees in response to last month’s protests in support of imprisoned opposition politician Alexey Navalny, says the independent television network Dozhd. Following reports last week that the Moscow subway system had fired nearly 40 employees in connection with recent opposition demonstrations, Dozhd interviewed nearly 100 of the city’s transport workers and found that they were warned of possible consequences after hackers leaked thousands of email addresses registered with Navalny’s team in mid-April. Most of the layoffs came after the May holidays. A source close to the Moscow Mayor’s Office told Dozhd that the order to fire these city employees came from the Kremlin.
The Moscow subway system isn’t the only enterprise subordinate to the city’s Transport Department that has carried out large-scale layoffs in response to last month’s pro-Navalny protests, reports the independent television network Dozhd.
As reported last week, the Moscow subway system fired nearly 40 employees — all of whom had either registered online to attend recent pro-Navalny demonstrations or had relatives who did. Their email addresses were revealed when hackers leaked the registration database in mid-April.
Alexey Navalny’s associates launched the “Freedom for Navalny!” website back in March, inviting his supporters to RSVP to their next round of countrywide demonstrations in support of the jailed opposition politician. In mid-April, reports emerged that people who had registered with the website were receiving emails containing their personal information, as well as threats that their employers would be informed of their political views. Law enforcement officers carried out checks at a number of these people’s homes.
Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, claimed that an FBK employee who had been recruited by the Russian FSB stole the registration database. Meduza later traced the leak back to people associated with the presidential administration and the president’s directorate.
In total, Dozhd interviewed nearly 100 city employees from entities under the Moscow Transport Department. According to these workers, the day after the registration database leaked online, their supervisors began calling people in for conversations, where they were warned about possible consequences. Most of them were fired after the May holidays.
One former employee told Dozhd that three weeks after the initial warning, his boss called him in again and said that “[Transport Department Head Maxim] Liksutov gave [us] two days to fire everyone included in the database.” The employee was given the option of immediately tendering his resignation by mutual agreement and receiving severance. His boss explained that if he refused, “they’ll start digging hard, write up concerns, and fire [you].” The employee chose the first option.
Another employee from the same structure refused to resign voluntarily, after which, in his words, “the persecution began” — the security service began tracking even the smallest delays. After 5,000 rubles (about $68) were deducted from his salary for these delays, he “didn’t wait any longer and left” of his own accord. Many of the Moscow subway system’s employees who refused to quit voluntarily were threatened with dismissal for missing work or poor performance. They even fired employees who were on vacation or sick leave.
Several dozen people were affected by the layoffs at various entities subordinate to the Moscow Transport Department, Dozhd wrote. This includes people who worked for MosTransProekt, Moscow Parking, the Traffic Management Center, Transportation Organizer, Mosgostrans, and the Moscow subway system.
According to many of the former employees Dozhd interviewed, their immediate supervisors told them that the order to lay people off “came from above.” A source close to the Moscow Mayor’s Office told the television channel that the instructions to fire state employees whose emails were contained in the protest registration database came from the Kremlin. “They wanted to go through all state employees and not only [those ones], but they wanted it to be quiet,” he said.
The same source said that city employees working under the Moscow Transport Department “got the brunt.” Dozhd noted that they didn’t uncover large-scale layoffs at Moscow’s other budgetary institutions.
Translation by Eilish Hart