Russia: free political prisoners!

Here MARIA C., a Russian activist, comments on the sentencing of Mikhail Kosenko, who was arrested at one of last year’s demonstrations. There is a meeting on “Russia and Kazakhstan: free political prisoners” on Saturday 19 October, at 5.0 pm, at University of London Queen Mary, Mile End Road, Room 2.40 (at the Anarchist Book Fair).

In Moscow last week the first sentence was pronounced in the so-called Bolotnaya Square (or 6th of May demo) case. Mikhail Kosenko, one of 27 political

Bolotnaya Square, 10 December 2011. Photo mpeake/Flickr Creative Commons

Bolotnaya Square, 10 December 2011. Photo mpeake/Flickr Creative Commons

prisoners, was found guilty of beating a police officer and sent for indefinite forced psychiatric treatment. (News stories here and here.)

Mikhail Kosenko has a registered second-degree disability, due to a psychiatric condition caused by an injury suffered in the army.

This is the worst possible sentence. Many people in Russia think that the psychiatric institutions are worse than prisons – that many people never return from them, because they really are driven out of their minds there.

Mikhail was found guilty in spite of the fact that the injured police officer did not recognise him, and declared in the court that he is not guilty. On Tuesday more then 1000 people came to support Mikhail and stayed after the sentence was pronounced. Many were  arrested.

The May 6 demonstration was the seventh mass rally, attended by about 100 000 protesters, that was legally sanctioned to take place on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. However, on the day, the police suddenly changed tactics and blocked the way to  Bolotnaya in the back streets and along the riverfront.

This increased police activity provoked tensions and clashes, as the obstructed protesters were forced to break through the police cordon. The demonstration ended with violence and mass arrests.

We had hoped that Putin’s new image as international peacekeeper would help the  chances of the 6th of May prisoners. Putin also officially declared a possible amnesty of the 6th of May prisoners.

Unfortunately, his peacemaking and post-colonial pathos should be interpreted in exactly the opposite way: Putin decided to stop completely his games with western liberalism (his official doctrine of 2000 was called “managed democracy”).

His post-colonial agenda coincides with an intention to return Russia to the conditions of the empire, before 1917. That’s why he recently put monuments to the imperial officials of the epoch of Nikolai II, the last tsar, and took down a couple of Soviet monuments, without any public discussions.

Now we expect the most rigid sentences for other activists, who could receive prison terms of between four and ten years.

Among the 6th of May prisoners are: Alexandra Dukhanina (born 1993), anarchist;  Aleksey Gaskarov (born 1985), anti-fascist; Stepan Zimin (born 1992), anarchist; Nikolay Kavkazsky (born 1986), human rights activist; Vladimir Akimenkov (1987), socialist, member of Left Front coalition; Leonid Razvozzhaev (1973) and Sergei Udaltsov (1977), both Left Front activists.

Overall, this is a story of how Putin is trying gradually to destroy the left scene that has arisen in Russia. Moreover, one needs to list not only arrested activists, but those who emigrated after uncountable searches and threats from the secret police.

A campaign of solidarity and support for prisoners is urgently needed!


Russia and Kazakhstan: free political prisoners!

5.00pm – 6.00pm, Saturday 19 October.

Meeting at the Anarchist Book Fair.

Room 2.40, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS.

Russian police have arrested dozens of activists – socialists, anarchists, human rights campaigners, ecologists and others who oppose the Putin regime – following mass demonstrations in 2011-12. This is collective punishment against a wave of social movements that is energising a new generation. In Kazakhstan, a campaign of repression that started with a massacre of striking oil workers in 2011 continues: oil workers and other activists are serving long sentences. At this meeting, Russian activist Maria C. and trade unionist Gabriel Levy will give an update on social movements and international solidarity action.


A petition against the forced psychiatric treatment of Mikhail Kosenko

An appeal in support of the political prisoners

Information on the campaign to support Kazakh oil workers here

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