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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: August 22, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Angry Russian Farmers Launch March on Moscow to Protest Illegal Land Confiscations
5 years
Novaya Gazeta and Ekho Moskvy Journalist Yuliya Latynina Attacked En Route to Work
Farmers in the provincial Russian region of Kuban have started a convoy of tractors and cars and set off to "march on Moscow," Novaya Gazeta  and RIA Novosti reported.

Translation:  The tractor run from Kuban to Moscow: farmers are driving to the president with complaints.

This protest has been gathering steam for a year and recently gathered more momentum.

In the village of Kazanskaya in Kavkazsky District of Kuban in southern Russia, farmers held a rally over the weekend to protest the failure of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to meet with them on his recent visit to nearby Krasnodarsky Territory.

On August 9, farmers had stood along Medvedev's route along the highway with signs saying "Gang - Get Out!" and "Give Back Our Land". They were arrested and taken to the police precinct until Medvedev's trip was over. In Krasnodar, he made one of his much-derided statements (like his infamous "There's no money. Hang on. Have a nice day" to Crimeans):

"I now have a sense of pride at how the rural economy is developing. I will not let them touch the village."

It's not clear who the "they" were in Medvedev's statement which may have referenced Russian administrative actions to merge villages and make some disappear, or not to provide a sufficient budget for farms. But the protesters were angry with specific local officials whom they say have confiscated their land.

At first it seemed as if one farmer, Yury Ilchenko, whose cattle farm was included in the government's program for Medvedev, would be able to ask a hard question of Medvedev about land seizures. But since the questions had to be submitted in advance, his question was removed by regional officials. 

As Andrei Sandakov from the village of Novotitarovskaya commented (translation by The Interpreter):

"The people who didn't get through the selection, the old women and old men, were not allowed to see Medvedev. His motorcade just flew by. In our area, for example, for years, more than a thousand shareholders have been fighting Oleg Deripaska's Kuban Agricultural Union for land, they are paying taxes for what they do not possess. Their parcels were sold illegally to business people and people lost everything."

In the village of Starovelichovskaya, Oleg Makarevich, who rents out lands (the head of Sovetskaya Kuban, Ltd and Oktyabr, Ltd.) held a meeting with shareholders with blatant violation of the law. His officers forged more than 80% of the signatures to documents. Through a trick, he extended the terms of leases on four giant tracts for 30 years. About a thousand people suffered losses."

Novaya Gazeta said farmers told them their land was seized as soon as the harvest was ready and they were openly mocked if they protested to courts because the judges are relatives of the raiders. Last year, when farmers tried to start a march to Moscow, activists from the All-Russian Popular Front visited them and promised to investigate the seizures, but then did nothing.

On August 21, farmers got together to protest against the land confiscation by officials and judges they said were in collusion. Novaya Gazeta said there were 1,500 people in the rally; RIA Novosti said 300. Fifty people formed a convoy of 17 tractors and some 8 automobiles and hoped for support along the way.

The drivers have already reached neighboring Rostov Region where they held a rally and have not been stopped so far. They intend to head to Voronezh next. They think that they will collect some 300 tractors by the time they get near Moscow, in about six days, if they are not halted.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick