03/15/2021, 10.40
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Moscow, police block 'anti-Putin' Forum of independent deputies

by Vladimir Rozanskij

About 200 people were arrested, including deputies and journalists. Detentions justified by violation of anti-Covid safety regulations. The rally was used to plan the next elections in September in the city where the defeat of Putin's party is most likely, according to an idea by Alexei Navalnyj.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On March 13, the Moscow police interrupted the Forum of independent deputies, called "Municipal Russia", arresting almost all its participants - about 200 people - as members of an "unwanted organization".

One of the Moscow municipal deputies, Sergej Vlasov, posted the news on Telegram. According to the OVD-Info agency, which deals with the defence of human rights, 170 arrested people are held in various city police departments without permission to consult their lawyers. To date, several of them, after being interrogated, have been released.

The Moscow police said they had intervened to "block violations of anti-Covid safety regulations", given that "a significant part of the participants did not use protective equipment", even if in the video recordings of the event everyone is wearing a mask. According to Timur Olevskij, one of the arrested journalists, the deputies were charged with art. 20.33 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits "the activity on the territory of the Russian Federation of foreign or international non-governmental organizations, recognized as undesirable in Russia". Yekaterinburg’s ex-mayor Evgenij Rojsman was also released after arrest on the same charges.

The Dozhd television channel and the Mediazon news agency communicated many well-known politicians among those arrested: the director of the Open Russia movement Andrei Pivovarov; the president of the same group, Anastasia Burakova; the deputies of the Moscow Duma Ilja Jashin, Julia Galamina and Mikhail Timonov; the Petersburg MP Maksim Reznik. Many journalists were also stopped: the moderator of the Forum Timur Olevskij, Anastasia Melnikova of Znak, Artem Kriger of Sota.Vision, Maria Kuznetsova of Otkrytki, Vladimir Postnikov of Evening News and Nikita Stupin, author of the Telegram channel Avtozak, who denounces the abuses law enforcement.

The policemen broke into the Izmailovo hotel complex, where the Forum was taking place, 40 minutes after it started. About 20 avtozak, anti-demonstrator minibuses, were parked next to the hotel. The destination of many of the arrested, from 56 regions of the country, is not known.

The Forum intended to carry out the project of the "United Democrats", a coalition of political forces, not included in the list of "unwanted organizations" of the Russian Ministry of Justice. The coordinator of "Open Russia", Tatjana Usmanova, told Dozhd that the police had already blocked some initiatives of her group as "unwanted", but the broader coalition was not prohibited at all, and for this reason the meeting had been organized by expanding it to the federal level.

In the frenzied phase following the arrest and sentencing of Alexei Navalnyj, the Russian authorities are trying to prevent any form of coordination between the opposition, in view of the various local and parliamentary elections in September. Naval'nyj himself is the inspiration behind this convergence between forces and political personalities that are also very different from each other, in the anti-Putinian "useful vote" strategy.

Leonid Volkov, coordinator of regional groups in favor of Naval'nyj, was not present at the Forum, trying to avoid an arrest that appears imminent also against him. In recent days Volkov declared that he had organized election campaigns in 10 Russian cities, where it seems more likely to be able to snatch seats from Putinian deputies. These are "key cities" in various regions of the Federation, such as Ulyanovsk, Orenburg, Astrakhan, Kirov, Vladimir, Ulan-Ude, Kursk, Cita, Petrozavodsk and Abakan.

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