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Putin tries to silence groundswell of dissent

From our Moscow correspondent...

The Russian authorities are desperately trying to clamp down in the current climate of political awakening surrounding the elections. Over 100,000 people turned out on Christmas Eve in Moscow to protest Putin's seizure of the election. (see SchNEWS 800 ).

There have been large demonstrations in other cities across the country. Pre-emptive arrests of activists is currently the state's chosen tactic. On the 4th of December the leader of the “Vanguard of Red Youth” movement and a co-ordinator of the “Left Front”, Sergej Udaltsov was arrested for “ignoring the ruling of courts in relation to his crimes” and held for five days. After this he was re-arrested for fifteen days, for “taking part in unsanctioned demonstrations against the fraudulent elections”. After the first decision of the court, Sergej had started a dry hunger strike. On the 14th of December, his lawyer described his situation ”extremely bad”. On the same day he needed to be hospitalised but was turned down by the authorities. Technically he was to be released on Christmas Day (conveniently a day after the big rallies).

People across Russia are voicing their support for the arrested Udaltsov. On the eve of 25th of December, one of the activists for the defence of Khimki forest (an active protest mass-movement against the building of the Saint-Petersburg – Moscow motorway), Yaroslav Nikitenko, was detained as he stood outside of the Judicial Precinct No. 370 in Moscow's Tverskoy District, where he had come to support Udaltsov. Yaroslav was then charged under the same article of the Administrative Code (Article 19.3, ”Failure to obey the lawful command of a police officer”) as Udaltsov. Yaroslav was allegedly shouting the slogan ”Judge Borovkova should be put on trial!”.

Philipp Kostenko is an activist from the “Memorial” human rights organisation, known in Saint-Petersburg for giving out food on the streets to the needy. He's also an active antifascist and general agitator. He's been under arrest since the 6th of December for taking part in demonstrations against the fraudulent elections. As a sign of protest he started a hunger strike demanding the freeing of all political prisoners arrested during mass protests. The hunger strike lasted all fifteen days of arrest. On the 21st of December at 19:30 his time in prison was over - but the authorities gave him another fifteen days for an alleged “act of minor hooliganism” which happened two months ago!

On December 22nd civic activist Gennady Stroganov and Oborona activist Fyodor Khodkov also charged with Article 19.3 were sentenced to six days in jail by Judge Borovkova for their involvement in the protest action “Deputies Turn in Your Mandates!” near the Parliament. ”Other Russia” activist Sergej Aksyonov was also sentenced to five days in jail at this same time. All of their their trials were conducted without the presence of their lawyers.

Meanwhile the protest movement is gearing up for the next round of big demos on February 4th – initial discontent with the election results for the State Duma has crystallised into a wider movement fed up with the corruption and undemocratic nature of the Putin regime.

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Twitter: @SchNEWS