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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Opposition Vows to Go Forward with March 1 Protest Despite Navalny's Arrest; Permit Not Yet Secured
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Moscow authorities proposed that opposition organizers of a protest march to be held on March 1 should be moved from Tverskaya Street in the center of Moscow to the suburb of Lyublino, RBC reported, citing opposition group Solidarity representative and blogger Sergei Davidis.

"We received a verbal response from the mayor's office with an offer to move the march to Lyublino, the organizing committee has not yet received official documents," said Davidis.

Davidis said "Lyublino" because it is right next to Maryino.

He said the organizers planned to respond to the offer from the mayor's office, but couldn't say what the collective decision would be. "In my view, this is a completely unacceptable offer and even offensive." Protesters don't want to be exiled to the outskirts of Moscow where they will have less participation and less visibility.

The opposition filed a request for a permit for up to 100,000 people to march through the main street of Tverskaya near the Kremlin. Five leaders signed the request: Alexey Navalny, Aleksandr Ryklin, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Police arrested Navalny this morning and a judge sentenced him to 15 days in jail for leafletting about the march over the weekend, and past unauthorized demonstrations. Thus he has been put out of commission for the planning, but Boris Nemtsov, another opposition leader of the march, said on his Facebook that the organizers intend to proceed.

Navalny indicated this evening on his blog that he would accept the move to Maryino, but said he was in the minority on this question among the organizers of the march. He also noted that the group didn't have a formal explanation yet from the Mayor's Office as to why they were rejecting the route in central Moscow.

Navalny said he wasn't bothered by having a location on the outskirts of Moscow and listed a number of stops that were not so far from the center where people actually live.

The closer to people, the better. What, people don't live there? In fact, I myself have lived in Maryino itself for 17 years, and it's not a problem. So let's hold the Anti-Crisis March in the very thick of the people, in the final analysis, Maryino has the largest population of any Moscow district. It will be a people's march.

In fact, this time, too, I proposed holding it not on Tverskaya/Bolotnaya/Sakharova avenues but in the Vorobyev Hills or something like that.

The position, "I will go to the Chekhovskaya metro stop against the war and corruption, but no way will I go to the Maryino metro stop" looks a little contrived. It's understandable that here there was a calculation that people will perceive such a route as an insult (and it is an insult) and emotions get the upper hand, but we must understand the intention.

We have to think not about how they are driving us mad with this route but we are driving them mad with such slogans.


The status of the march application is not clear, as some organizers don't want to accept the option of a suburban location, yet the mayor's office may not be persuaded to allow them to march in the center of Moscow.

Roman Rubanov also said that the Mayor's Office had said they were missing letters from the organizers, which sounds like some bureaucratic red tape is being invoked to stall the permission.

Translation: The government of Moscow has said that they have not received anything from Navalny recarding #SPRING. And they say they seemingly didn't receive any letters from him, Nemtsov and others.

Meanwhile, they also face the prospect of a counter-demonstration or disrupters from a government-supported movement called "Anti-Maidan" which has scheduled rallies in a number of cities for February 21, the anniversary of the flight of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to Russia, reported.

In Moscow, the Anti-Maidan organizers had no trouble obtaining permission to march from Strastnoy Boulevard along Petrovka Street to Revolution Square in the center of town -- although their theme is "No Revolutions," as they contrast themselves to Maidan movement which ultimately forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia when confronted with his massive corruption and use of force on demonstrators

The action is titled "Never forgive, Never Forget" is being led by nationalist Russian Senator Dmitry Sablin and other members of parliament. Activists in the government-created All-Russian National Front are expected to participate along with and bikers' clubs led by Alexander Zaldostanov ("Surgeon"), head of the Night Wolves, who was put on the US sanctions' list in December 2014 for his role in the forcible annexation of Crimea.

Rallies are planned throughout Russia's provinces reported. Billboard ads and commercials on federal television have appeared, evidently paid for by Fighting Brotherhood, a government-funded organization with regional chapters where Sablin serves as deputy representative.

Aleksei Solovov, representative of Fighting Brotherhood, told RBC that the ads were paid for by "donations from members of the organization." RBC contacted Russ Outdoor, the billboard company and found 120 sites had been purchased in Moscow. Andrei Berezkin, general director of the research company Espar-Analitik said that going by the company's web site, this could mean anywhere from 40,000 rubles ($645) per site was spent to 25,000 rubles ($403) per site spent on the ad, depending on what kind of space was purchased, i.e. billboard versus bus shelter ad. He cautioned that it was hard to tell because the group may have received a deep discount due to the slow winter season.

The Fighting Brotherhood is headed by Boris Gromov, former Moscow Region governor and military hero, who has received about 25 million rubles in presidential administration grants as an NGO over the course of several years (currently about $403,000 but worth double that last year). One of these grants (8 million rubles or $129,000 at current rates) was received last year for a comprehensive program to create a network of youths for the Fighting Brotherhood. That's why RBC believes that the organization would be able to pay for ads from government funds, and in any event, while they may have raised private funds for the ads, their general operating costs are already covered by significant government grants.

Formally, the ruling party United Russia and the All-Russian National Front are not organizers of the Anti-Maidan protest, but a source close to the action's planners said that their members will "come on their own."

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick