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To the Sochi Olympics participants!

To the Sochi Olympics participants!

Dear participants and guests of the winter Olympics in Sochi!

We are members of a civil-society human rights organization – “May 6 Committee”, which was established for the purposes of conducting an impartial and painstaking inquiry into the events that took place on May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya square in Moscow and of campaigning in defence of the persons who were prosecuted in connection with the said political rally.

The truth is that the Bolotnaya case is a shameful attempt to suppress all manner of dissidence and protest in our country. And this shameful attempt is witnessed by the entire nation for it is taking place in its capital city, in the spotlight of the media. Unfortunately, all the TV channels and most of other media in Russia are strictly controlled by the government, so lots of people have almost no way to access and know the truth. That is why we need support from the foreign people. We perfectly realize that you are now busy preparing to take part in the Olympic Games, yet whenever outrageous injustice is taking place before our very eyes, each and every one of us is justified and perhaps even morally entitled to respond to it.

In February 2014 you are going to take part in the winter Olympics in Sochi. There is no gainsaying that the Olympic Games are obviously the leading international sports event, taking part in which is the greatest possible honor for any athlete!

We would, however, like you to know that in modern-day Russia the Olympics, into which fabulous sums of money have been invested, should be seen as little more than a kick in the teeth of its people, impoverished and disenfranchised. The country where elderly pensioners, who have spent their whole life working faithfully for its benefit, are now living below poverty line; where bandits throw them out of their homes, getting away with it with as much as paying a modest bribe to the police; the country where so many people lack the basic amenities in their homes like running water or heating simply, – should not spend such amounts on sports events. In Russia, it is, however, not only social security that is lacking; people are equally exposed to wide-scale lawlessness and judicial outrage. The Bolotnaya case represents a most illustrative example of this.

The parliamentary elections of December 4, 2011 and the presidential elections of 2012 were marked by gross violations of the law. This was the case of all of the mass protest rallies in 2011-2012. The March of the Millions, which took place on May 12, 2012, was just one in that series. The authorities had deliberately created a dangerous situation, preventing a huge crowd of peaceful protesters, numbering approximately 75,000 people, from passing freely along a narrow passage on the bridge to the square where the rally was planned to be held. Furthermore, clashes with the police were provoked by unidentified rioters. On orders from the chiefs of the Moscow police, the police forces began to indiscriminately grab protesters, fiercely beating anyone who happened to be within their reach. Not a single representative of the authorities has been held responsible for the injuries sustained by protesters. Moreover, justice pursued a contrary course: in late May 2012 the authorities began to arrest random people who had taken part in the peaceful rally on May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya square. Ever since arrests would occur almost every month. There are currently 16 people charged in connection with the Bolotnaya rally, 8 of them are currently standing trial. 11 people are held in custody, despite many of them suffering from a variety of diseases and/or having young children or other dependent family members. 3 people have so far been convicted and are serving their sentence.

The trial, or rather parody of justice, is attended by gross violations of the defendants’ rights. The trial participants are constantly interrupted, prevented from making statements, the defendants are denied copies of trial materials, video recording of the trial is not allowed, attendance of hearings is restricted. All of these violations had prompted one of the defendants – the middle-aged researcher Sergei Krivov – to go on a hunger-strike which lasted 65 days. During the entire period he was nevertheless forced to attend the hearings, when the judge brazenly refused to let the ambulance into the court room each time Krivov passed out.

One of the defendants, Mikhail Kosenko, was found insane and is now awaiting his ordeal which consists in being handed over to the mercy of the sadly notorious Russian punitive psychiatry. Even though Mikhail is indeed suffering from a certain mental disorder, albeit at its most benign, he is perfectly sane and accountable for his actions. His new diagnosis is the result of the absolutely unjustified charges. A universally available video tape unambiguously proves that he was not in any way implicated in the episode he is charged with.

All defendants in Bolotnaya case are kept in appalling conditions; correspondence with the outside world, with their families is limited and subject to severe and arbitrary censorship, medical assistance is provided on an on-and-off basis, their cells have no heating and are plainly unsanitary. These people, whose only guilt is participation in a sanctioned political rally, are kept in the same cells together with thieves and murderers… While being transported to the court premises, the defendants are kept in tiny cold cells, together with inmates who suffer from an active form of tuberculosis. They are not infrequently beaten by officers of the Moscow detainee escort regiment while in convoy cars and while being kept in special rooms on the court premises. On the days when court sessions are held, their meals consist of barely soluble packed lunches; when they return to their detention facility cells, they are subjected to humiliating strip search. All of this is hard enough for a healthy person to bear, let alone people whose health condition is far from being sound? While in detention, the condition of the recently pardoned Vladimir Akimenkov, who has long been afflicted by an eye disease, had dramatically deteriorated. Artyom Savelov is a life-long sufferer from severe incurable stammering but is nevertheless accused of having chanted anti-government slogans. Denis Lutskevich, who took part in a political rally for the first time in his life, attempted to defend a young woman who was being abused by the police and was himself severely beaten. All of these people are innocent. And despite the enormous pressure to which they are exposed, they are all bravely keeping their spirit, refusing to renounce their struggle for justice and confess to the charges that are being pinned upon them.

We would also like you to note that the Bolotnaya trial is far from being the one and only instance of flagrant violation of human rights in today’s Russia. The story of the Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina who were recently pardoned after serving a two-year sentence has become universally famous. Their only crime was their song in which Vladimir Putin was mentioned in a most unflattering light, sung in the country’s biggest cathedral. Furthermore, an activist of the opposition party “Another Russia” Taisia Osipova was convicted to an eight-year prison term on apparently trumped-up charges, despite her suffering from a diabetes mellitus and having a young child… This list is indeed next to infinite.

Dear participant of the Sochi Olympics!

We believe that you do need a clear understanding of what kind of political regime governs the country you are going to visit. The Russian authorities are taking great pains and spare no fine words to demonstrate to the world that our country is an integral part of the global community. But what is the reality? You can judge for yourself! Could an event symbolizing peace, such as the Olympic Games, be indeed held in a country where basic human rights are being so shamelessly trampled upon? Far be it from our intention to suggest that you refuse to take part in the Sochi Olympics for we greatly respect your profession, mastery and skills. What we ask you to do is to demonstrate your solidarity with the prisoners of the authoritarian regime by wearing badges saying “Freedom to May 6 prisoners!” or by choosing any other form of manifesting your position. For possible ways of manifesting your support for the May 6 prisoners you can check our website 6may.org.

Raise your voice against lawlessness! The country, which today finds itself on the brink of dictatorship, needs your solidarity.

Sincerely,

the May 6 Committee

2 comments

  1. Oleg

    Хорошо бы опубликовать это обращение в хорошем переводе на разные языки. А то получается, что только к российским спортсменам обращение, которые и сами во многом – заложники

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