March of Millions Takes Place in Moscow. Vera Vasilieva Reports

Vera Vasilieva
, 16/09/12


· Right of assembly  · Social rights  · Ministry of Internal Affairs  · Political prisoners

· Persecution of activists  · Public protests  · Moscow city & Moscow region

The March of Millions took place on 15 September in Moscow, with tens of thousands of people taking part. The march started at 14:00 from Pushkinskaya Square and proceeded along the Boulevard Circle. Before the march started, white balloons and white doves were released into the air. The demonstration ended with a rally on Academician Sakharov Avenue. One of the main demands of the opposition was the release of political prisoners.

In particular the demonstrators named those in detention in connection with the alleged ‘mass disturbances’ in Moscow on 6 May on Bolotnaya Square. At the moment there are 13 held in custody, and altogether 17 people are currently under investigation. Among the alleged offenders are political activists as well as those who are far from politics.

For example, Nikolai Kavkazky, a staff member of the NGO For Civil Rights providing legal advice. This organisation is headed by the well-known human rights defender Andrei Babushkin. There is also a 4th year student of the Political Science department at Moscow State University, Yaroslav Belousov, who went to Bolotnaya Square that day, as both he and his legal representative assert, strictly in order to pursue his research.

On Sakharov Avenue, Viktor Savelov, the father of Artem Savelov, one of those detained in connection with the May investigation, addressed the crowd: “Please tell me why you have come here? Probably because young people today have no future, there is no work for them. That was the reason why my son and other young people took part in the demonstration on 6th May. They were detained on false charges, herded around like animals.”

The participants in the March of Millions did not forget other prisoners, behind bars due to unjust or politically motivated convictions, as many human rights defenders consider. This includes the members of the Pussy Riot punk music band Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samutsevitch and Maria Aleksina, and also Taisiya Osipova, an activist with the unregistered party The Other Russia, the former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Aleksei Pichugin.

A poster in support of Aleksei Pichugin claimed that the former security officer of the oil company has been a victim of false accusations. Vladimir Vysotsky, a Russian poet, talked about this in his ballad The Story of Truth and the Lie: “When she was stoned, Truth laughed:/ - The Lie did it all, and the Lie is wearing my clothes!../ Two crazy cripples drew up the charges / And called Truth bad names…/ The charges wound up in an insulting conclusion, / And Truth found herself accused of others’ crimes.”

Politician Boris Nemtsov in his speech named the main demands of the March of Millions. Apart from the release of political prisoners, these were to run new, free and fair elections to the State Duma, to change the Constitution of Russia to limit the power of the president, to freeze prices for housing services, to ensure freedom for trade unions, and to increase spending on education and healthcare.

Overall, this March of Millions stood out from previous ones by the specially large number of social demands that were voiced, a reflection of the fact that many doctors, academics, students and teachers were taking part.

This was the second time that demonstrators from higher education institutions, schools and research institutes were taking part in an organized column. They were carrying a large white balloon on which was written: “Clear Russia of obscurantism! Give Russia back its brains!” Other placards read: “Russia – Science = the End”, “Feudalism and science are incompatible”, “No to the commercialization of education.”

The Independent student committee of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Moscow State University action group, as well as the trade union Teacher, were among those taking part in the demonstration.

Speakers at the rally included the writers Dmitry Bykov and Sergei Shargunov, the author of the RosPil project Aleksei Navalny, the recently expelled deputy of the State Duma Gennady Gudkov, the leader of the movement to save Khimky Forest Evgenia Chirikova, deputy from a Moscow district Natalia Chernyshova, and Left Front coordinator Sergei Udaltsov.

Pussy Riot lawyer Mark Feigin called on all supporters of the group to take part in a peaceful rally planned for 1st October, the day Moscow City Court will review the appeal against their conviction.

Saturday’s rally on Sakharov Avenue turned out to be the longest in duration. It was agreed with the city authorities that it would run till 22:00.

At the very end of the demonstration the police arrested Sergei Udaltsov. The leader of the Left Front says that this happened five minutes before time agreed with the mayor of Moscow for the rally to end. The police, on the other hand, say that Udaltsov was detained after 10 pm when he tried to organise an unauthorised march towards Chistoprudny Boulevard.

Sergei Udaltsov was taken to Tverskaya district police station. He was later released, after having been charged with the administrative offence of ‘Violating the procedures for organizing or conducting a rally.’ He will now have to prove his point in court.

Apart of Udaltsov, police also detained about 20 other participants in the March of Millions, who after the demonstration ended gathered by the statue of Abai Qunanbayuli on Chistye Ponds. All were also released after having been charged with administrative offences.

Photo Gallery: March of Millions, 15th September 2012