Cablegate: Gor Clamps Down On Other Russia; Kasparov

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1. (SBU) Summary: On November 24, following a peaceful,
sanctioned meeting in central Moscow, about eighty of an
estimated two thousand Other Russia/SPS demonstrators
attempted to march to the Central Election Commission in
defiance of a ban by city authorities. In the melee that
followed, police and special forces troops briefly detained
up to forty of the activists, and arrested Other Russia
leader Garry Kasparov. Kasparov was denied access to counsel
until just before the brief November 24 hearing that saw him
sentenced to five days detention for refusing to obey
authorities and for organizing an illegal activity. The
Ambassador will raise concerns over the GOR reaction to the
demonstration with acting Foreign Minister Denisov this
evening. End summary.

Illegal March Stopped

2. (SBU) A sanctioned November 24 meeting in central Moscow
sponsored by Other Russia was attended by about two thousand
demonstrators and addressed by Other Russia's Garry Kasparov,
the Union of Right Forces' (SPS) Boris Nemtsov, the outlawed
National Bolshevik Party's Eduard Limonov, and others. Other
Russia estimated attendance at about three thousand, while
Moscow city authorities pegged it at one thousand, and
Embassy representative split the difference at two thousand.
Police presence at the meeting was moderate.

3. (SBU) After the conclusion of the meeting, about eighty of
the demonstrators attempted to march toward the Central
Election Commission, where they hoped to deliver a petition.
The police acted aggressively to prevent the march, as the
permit given to Other Russia sanctioned a meeting only. In
the melee that followed, police detained forty people, who
had broken through a thin police barricade, crossed the busy
Garden Ring Road, then ran down a side street in the
direction of the CEC. Among those brought into custody were
Kasparov, human rights activist and SPS Moscow representative
Maria Gaidar, National Bolshevik Party head Eduard Limonov,
the head of the NGO "For Human Rights" Lev Ponomarev and
Yabloko Party youth leader Ilya Yashin. During the
confusion, a small group led by the Other Russia's Moscow
representatives Marina Litvinovich, delivered a petition to
the duty officer at the Central Election Commission, who
promised to pass it to the appropriate office when the CEC
opened for business on November 26.

4. (SBU) Kasparov was quickly sentenced to five days
imprisonment for refusing to obey authorities and for
organizing an illegal activity. (Note: the speed with which
justice was rendered was unusual. The judge apparently
reversed her earlier decision to reconvene on November 26 and
delivered her verdict on the evening of November 24.)
Kasparov and others have complained that the police and the
judicial system violated their rights after their arrest.
Kasparov's attorney has claimed that he was not given access
to Kasparov until five minutes before his quickly arranged
hearing on November 24 and not permitted to present evidence.
Of the remaining 39, nine were immediately released and
thirty were told to report to court on Monday, November 26.

Marches Face Problems Elsewhere

5. (SBU) Attempts to hold un-sanctioned marches in Nizhniy
Novgorod on November 24 and in St. Petersburg on November 25
(septel) encountered similar resistance from the police.
Sources in Nizhniy Novgorod report that dozens of Other
Russia and SPS demonstrators defied a decision by city
authorities --who had offered other venues-- and gathered in
downtown Gorkiy Square, where they were detained by police.
Some of the would-be demonstrators were reportedly beaten and
denied access to legal counsel. In addition, a television
crew from Moscow-based REN-TV was reportedly kidnapped from
its hotel in Nazran by men wearing special police uniforms
and warned against trying to film a protest on November 24
against human rights abuses there (septel).

SPS's Presence Swells Other Russia Ranks

6. (SBU) The November 24 Moscow rally marked the first time
that SPS had joined Kasparov's group. Their members swelled
Other Russia's generally more paltry ranks and white flags of
SPS's Moscow organization outnumbered those of other
participating. Many of the speakers led the crowd in
cheering for a "Russia Without Putin." Nemtsov even tried to
capitalize on the Russian national soccer team's recent
near-miss qualification in the next round of the 2008
European Cup tournament by evoking a popular chant used at

MOSCOW 00005528 002 OF 002

those matches.

7. (SBU) Nemtsov told the media that the arrest of SPS
activists was illegal and that the party would challenge it
in the local courts. Nemtsov also noted that although there
was accurate coverage of the weekend's events in the
international media, the Russian media had ignored the
marches and resulting arrests of leading political figures or
had distorted their reporting. Moscow television juxtaposed
a rally of about five thousand members of the pro-Kremlin
Nashi group near Red Square releasing white balloons to show
their support for Putin with the gathering of "radicals" in
the north of the city. The media added to Other Russia's/SPS
bad press by interviewing drivers angered by the disruptions
caused in Moscow's car-stuffed city center by the Other
Russia meeting.


8. (SBU) The November 24 meeting seemed likely to follow the
emerging pattern set by the most recent set of Other Russia
rallies. The city had given permission to the demonstrators
to meet in central Moscow, but not to march. The meeting
itself went off without incident, but when an effort was made
to turn the meeting into an unauthorized march the police and
special forces troops cracked down. No doubt contributing to
the five-day sentence that Kasparov received was his body
guards' and Other Russia demonstrators' active resistance to
attempts to detain him. Video tapes show one presumed Other
Russia activist strangling an OMON troop and Ekho Moskvy,
which offered bulletins during the course of Saturday's
events, noted that Kasparov's bodyguards had "fought off" the
first efforts to arrest Kasparov after the march to the CEC
began. That said, the police seem to have overreacted to the
threat posed by the few demonstrators determined to defy the
ban, and Kasparov's treatment once detained --the failure to
allow him access to his counsel until just minutes before his
trial-- was a clear violation of his rights. The Ambassador
will raise our concerns over the treatment of the protesters
later today with acting Foreign Minister Denisov.

© Scoop Media

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