Counter-Extremisim Unit Targets Local Activists
Published: March 13, 2013 (Issue # 1750)
An investigation against anti-Kremlin demonstrators in Moscow spread to St. Petersburg after three local activists had their homes raided and were then interrogated at the local Center for the Prevention of Extremism (Center E) last week.
Three investigative units entered the apartments of the three activists simultaneously at around 6:40 a.m. on March 6 and, after searching their homes, took them to Center E’s headquarters on Ruzovskaya Ulitsa.
Andrei Pivovarov, a member of the opposition’s Coordination Committee, Civic Responsibility activist Natalya Gryaznevich and the Federation of Socialist Youth’s Grigory Popov were interrogated in the Bolotnoye Case, also known as the Bolotnaya Square Case.
The investigation was launched in the aftermath of a massive protest demo called the March of Millions held in Moscow on May 6, 2012, which resulted in clashes with the police on Bolotnaya Ploshchad in Moscow. Over 400 people were detained.
More than 200 investigators were summoned to work on the investigation into the “organization of mass riots,” which was launched later that same day.
According to Pivovarov, investigator Timofei Grachyov arrived from Moscow to supervise the raids and investigations here.
Pivovarov said that the interrogations were anticipated, because the three had taken part in a seminar on observing elections in Vilnius, Lithuania, in February 2012. He said the investigators were trying to prove that the activists were being trained in techniques of instigating mass riots, rather than observing elections.
“It was predictable because they had searched the apartments of [implicated] Muscovites earlier, and our colleagues in Moscow warned us that it was possible,” he said. “The searches went off quietly; I can’t say there were any violations of the law or any aggression.”
Pivovarov said nothing was taken during the raids on his and Popov’s apartments, while some belongings were seized at Gryaznevich’s apartment.
“They came at 6:40 a.m. or so and finished everything by around 9 a.m. Then I was taken to Center E, where an interrogation was held until 2 p.m.,” Pivovarov said.
“I gave answers to some questions, some questions I left unanswered citing Article 51 [of the Constitution allowing people not to testify against themselves], after which I was declared a ‘witness.’ I can’t be more specific because I signed a non-disclosure statement.”
According to Pivovarov, the investigators were mostly interested in the May 6 demonstration, the seminar, and Left Front activists Sergei Udaltsov, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev.
“I think the status of our being witnesses means we will not be threatened with anything, but I can’t exclude that they will continue their activities against us. The investigation has lasted for almost a year now, but they still have no results to demonstrate,” he said.
Opposition activists said that the clashes and the resulting investigation were brought about by police provocation initiated in order to curb the protest movement, comparing the incident and the resulting investigation to the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany. Human rights organizations protested the case, which led to about 20 people being charged and held in custody.
One activist, Alexander Dolmatov, charged as part of the case, committed suicide in a Dutch refugee center after being refused political asylum in The Netherlands in January.
“I think the case doesn’t hold any water,” Pivovarov said.
“Even if they can still prove that the people who were caught on video took part in riots, they can’t prove that they took part in organizing the riots to anybody but themselves. What’s happened is obviously the fault of the Kremlin, the Moscow Mayor’s office, the police, and the provocateurs who were there.
“I am sure that the investigators will attempt to put the blame on some of the organizers, but it will be certainly falsified,” he added.