|Pickets on Krasnopresnenskaya in support of the Bolotnaya case defendants|
Prison friday takes us halfway around the world for an interview with two Russian political prisoners. Alexei Polikhovich describes himself as a libertarian socialist. Stepan Zimin calls himself an anarcho-communist. Both men are imprisoned accused of clashing with police during an anti-Putin rally. The fighting began when police blocked the protesters' path and initiated a confrontation.
Over 400 people were arrested and scores were injured in the protest on Bolotnaya Square. Twenty-seven people are facing “mass rioting” charges in connection with the protest on May 6, 2012. I am a little confused as to the status of all those twenty-seven at the moment. The most recent accounting I could find (and this is of thirty, not twenty-seven arrestees) is from Radio Svoboda which says:
Thirty people in total have been charged in the Bolotnaya case. Maksim Luzyanjn and Konstantin Lebedev pleaded guilty and were sentenced to jail. Another defendant in the case, Mikhail Kosenko, was found to be not mentally competent and sentenced to compulsory psychiatric treatment. In separate proceedings, Leonid Razvozzhaev and Sergei Udaltsov have been investigated for allegedly organizing the mass riots.
After Khodorkovsky’s release, 8 of the Bolotnaya prisoners were amnestied at the end of last year - Nikolai Kavkazsky, Maria Baranova, Leonid Kovyazin, Vladimir Akimenkov, Anastasia Rybachenko, Dmitry Altaichinov and Fedor Bakhov. Eight other people were not included in the amnesty.
The Bolotnaya case as it is known for the name of the square which was the destination of the march that led to the clash with police, has drawn widespread criticism.
“The Bolotnaya case is quite possibly Russia’s trial of the year,” said Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director at Human Rights Watch. “It is largely about the government’s attempts to intimidate people into silence in Russia.”
Many believe the case is not merely an attempt to stifle protest, but rather is more specifically to crush dissent from the left. One of those arrested Vladimir Akimenkov in an interview earlier this month originally appearing in Open Left platform said,
"...I think that the authorities were fearful of the protest moving leftwards. On the March of Millions there were large columns of the Left Front, the Russian Socialist Movement, anarchists and a strong column from the universities and educational spheres [protesting against the growing privatization of education – trans. note]. On the whole social slogans were dominant. I believe that the Bolotnaya Case was to a significant extent directed towards defeating the left opposition. But the crackdown was unsuccessful. We have overcome this stage and come out of it stronger, the struggle continues. At the same time I would like to remark that amongst the people involved in the Bolotnaya case there were people who were at a demonstration for the first time. Ending up in jail has politicised them."
According to the Russian Legal Information Agency lawyers on Tuesday called on the District court of Moscow to aquit eight defendants in the case.
The Moscow City Court on Friday refused to release Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov and activist Leonid Razvozzhayev. A trial date for the two was set for February 4. It will be held behind closed doors.
The following is from Lib.com.