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APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

The May 6 Committee, a volunteer organisation created by Russian civil activists, considers it necessary to call the attention of the global community to the massive repressions unleashed against the country’s political opposition that have been gaining momentum in Russia throughout the past year. As a result of the mass protests in the aftermath of the wide-scale fraud in the December 2011 parliamentary and March 2012 presidential elections, the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin took the offensive against civil society, with absolutely no regard either for the constitutional provisions or for its own international obligations related to human rights and freedoms. This offensive took the form of new adopted laws infringing on the civil rights with regard to holding protest actions and rallies, of a large-scale campaign against NGOs and the show trial of the three Pussy Riot members, two of which were jailed for 2 years for their performance expressing protest against Vladimir Putin and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church who is closely affiliated to the former. However, the most shameless manifestation of the repressive line pursued by the authorities was the violent dispersal of the massive peaceful protest in Moscow on May 6, 2012 and the subsequent prosecution of, and repressions against, individuals taking part in it.

Approximately a hundred thousand people (among them both Muscovites and people arriving from Russia’s regions specifically to attend the rally), who went out onto the city’s streets that day, were unanimous in their indignation at the actual abolition of democratic elections in the country, the widespread corruption and the ubiquitous abuse of power and lawlessness on the part of civil servants. Striving to defend their human dignity, the protesters were demanding a return of the rights and freedoms that citizens of Russia had been deprived of. The response of the authorities was brutal violence. Police and special task forces, who had been pulled into the city in large numbers the day before, barred the way to the agreed location on Bolotnaya Square before the large crowd of protesters, provoking a human stampede. After this the police announced that the rally had been cancelled and attacked the protesters, beginning to disperse them violently using truncheons and special-purpose ammunition, even though there were many women, children and elderly citizens among them. Approximately 600 people were illegitimately arrested, many had to spend the entire night in detention, several dozens were injured, with hundreds and thousands of other protesters leaving shocked and dazed by what had happened. The criminal proceedings were, however, initiated neither against the authorities who had ordered to block the passage for the protesters, thus provoking clashes, nor against police special task force officers who had been brutally beating unarmed people, but against protesters who took part in the dispersed demonstration, with them facing charges of involvement in the alleged “mass riots”.

27 people from among those taking part in the protest were randomly selected by the authorities out of the vast crowd of people who went out to the May 6 protest rally, 17 of them were taken into custody. Their only “guilt” was their attempt to avail of their legitimate right to take part in a peaceful demonstration of protest and to defend people standing next to them from the brutal actions of the police.

The injured party in the criminal case concerning the alleged “mass riots” taking place on May 6 is represented solely by special task force officers: some of them had lost their truncheons, others had lost their helmets (which they are supposed to wear safely fastened), still others had sustained “tooth enamel injuries”. With regard to the protesters, however, the official statements claim that none of them had suffered from any forms of violence on behalf of the police. And this is despite the fact that testimonies of, as well as photo and video evidence showing special task force officers in full ammunition pursuing and beating defenseless civilians are abundant.

That blatant lies – recognising the culprits behind the violence as victims, with their victims being declared criminals instead – became the response of the authorities to the peaceful protests against their political fraud. Demonstrating utmost cynicism, the authorities awarded the police officers who had distinguished themselves during the dispersal of the protest rally with financial bonuses, some were even rewarded with apartments in Moscow, whereas their victims have been smeared in the media, taken into custody, and are expected to receive lengthy prison terms (Maksim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment, K.Lebedev  – 2,6 years).

In its resolute prosecution of the participants in May 6 protests, the regime openly borrows methods out of the arsenal of the Stalinist repressions: activists of oppositional political movements are declared to be agents of foreign states, coerced to confess their involvement in fabricated criminal cases, even torture is no longer an exceptional means (for example, Vladimir Akimenkov, whose eyesight is going, has been refused medical care in custody, Leonid Razvozzhayev, who was abducted in Ukraine by Russian state security officers and taken to Moscow (this later being announced to have been an “acknowledgement of guilt”), has been subjected to torture during interrogations. Little wonder it is that one frequently hears about the return of “the year 1937” – the year when the fiercest Stalinist repressions had taken place.

Exemplary repressions in connection with the “May 6 case” all serve only one purpose: to intimidate and to spread terror in the Russian society which is presently waking up after a long period of passivity, ready to struggle for its rights. The authoritarian regime seeks to make it clear: any resistance whatsoever, even peaceful resistance within the confines of the law, will invariably result in fierce retaliation. All hopes for a fair trial have long been vain: an independent judicial system has long been destroyed in Russia, with sentences being normally delivered at the bidding of those, who have seized a monopoly on the political power in the country. The beginning of the series of trials in the May 6 case is expected in late March or early April, and it is of little doubt that the judges will barely provide a legal framework for the resolution already made by the Kremlin.

In this critical situation all democratic forces in Russia are desperately in need of solidarity on the part of the global community. We call upon members of all human rights and other public associations, progressive political parties and movements, prominent figures, journalists, civil activists and all those who treasure the ideals of freedom, true grassroots democracy, respect for human rights, to support the Russian protest movement and its members who suffer from persecution on the part of Russian authorities. We are convinced that this is more than merely a domestic problem of the Russian Federation. This country’s government blatantly violates the fundamental democratic, internationally binding values and provisions which may have far-reaching consequences and a negative impact on Russia’s foreign policy.

6 may Committee calls upon the international community to voice their position regarding the political repressions and violation of human rights in Russia and resolutely demand from Russian authorities:

– end of politically-motivated repressions and persecution of political protesters and opposition activists;

- release and complete the legal rehabilitation of all those who are on trial in connection with the May 6 events, as well as compensation for both material and psychological injury sustained by them;

- just punishment for officials who were responsible for the political repressions against members of the opposition;

- respect for civil and political liberties enshrined in the Russian Constitution and in international instruments of civil and political rights and freedoms to which Russia is a party.

An express position of the civil society across the world in this matter could become a great help for people who are struggling for freedom and justice in Russia, these being the essential conditions for dignified human existence.

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