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A makeshift memorial on a frozen pond in Yekaterinburg

‘They said I could either leave or be charged’ Yekaterinburg woman describes authorities’ zero tolerance policy for flowers honoring Navalny

Source: Meduza
A makeshift memorial on a frozen pond in Yekaterinburg
A makeshift memorial on a frozen pond in Yekaterinburg
Sent by a reader to the Telegram channel It’s My City

Russian journalist Dmitry Kolezev published the story on Sunday of a Yekaterinburg woman who was repeatedly forced by police to leave public areas when she tried to lay flowers in memory of Alexey Navalny. When she ultimately managed to place the flowers, the authorities quickly removed them.

The woman said she initially tried to leave flowers and a note outside of the Yeltsin Center building but was stopped by police:

There were two policemen in uniform and some man in plainclothes who was standing and filming me on his phone. They didn’t let me leave flowers; they said either I could leave right away or they would take me to the police station and charge me with disobeying police, but that in either scenario, my flowers wouldn’t be placed there.

After this first encounter, the woman went to Plotinka, the iconic dam in the center of Yekaterinburg, where she was stopped by police again:

I wanted to leave [flowers] in the underpass that has a wall in memory of [Soviet singer Viktor] Tsoi. There were police and plainclothes officers there, too, and they also told me to leave. [They said that] even if I left the flowers, they would immediately be removed.

After that, she told Kolezev, she went to the Iset River Embankment. She said that law enforcement officers followed her for a while but eventually turned around. When they finally left her, she placed her flowers right on the embankment:

But right away, a man in plainclothes walked up, took a photo, and called someone. Literally within a few minutes, three more guys came and took away the flowers.

The woman noted that there were “very many plainclothes officers” in the area who would immediately put a stop to any attempt to lay down flowers:

The same thing happened right in front of my eyes to a young man and several young women. The officers immediately walked up, picked up the flowers, and took them away. When I asked what was going on and why I couldn’t just leave flowers next to a monument, they all gave the same answer: I could either leave immediately or go to the police station to be charged.

“They gave us instructions that nobody was allowed to [leave flowers] today. If they’re for Yeltsin, then please, take them to the museum. Everything will be taken inside. They’ll come out and throw away anything that’s left here,” the Telegram-based outlet It’s My City quoted one police officer as saying.

Nonetheless, some people did manage to set up makeshift memorials for Navalny, according to the channel. Residents reportedly left flowers in the city’s Birch Grove Park, Yuzhny Park, and Ivanovskoye Cemetery. In the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma, just a few kilometers from Yekaterinburg, people left flowers at a memorial to the victims of Soviet-era political repressions.

A day earlier, police dispersed a group of people gathered around the city’s Mask of Sorrow monument in memory of Navalny, claiming someone had issued a bomb threat.

According to the human rights media project OVD-Info, more than 400 people were arrested in 36 Russian cities for attending protests and gatherings in memory of Alexey Navalny.

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