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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW2331 2007-05-18 13:10 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #2331/01 1381310
O 181310Z MAY 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002331 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons 1.4 (b and d). 
 1. (C)  Summary: On May 18, Russian airport authorities 
confiscated the passports and tickets of some Other Russia 
leaders and two Western journalists, effectively preventing 
them from attending the sanctioned "March of Dissent" in 
Samara (reftel).  Although authorities agreed to the march, 
which was timed to coincide with the EU-Russia summit in the 
same city, they have detained and harassed organizers and 
activists over the last two weeks in an evident effort to 
disrupt preparations and minimize turnout.  The German DCM 
told us Chancellor Merkel was aware of the situation, and had 
publicly expressed concern at a press conference with Putin 
who distanced himself from the law enforcement measures.  We 
conveyed our strong concern to the offices of the HR 
Ombudsman and Presidential Advisor on Civil Society, where 
officials expressed surprise and disquiet over the latest 
developments.  The Ambassador underscored with Deputy Foreign 
Minister Yakovenko our concerns over the incident, and the 
need for Russia to create an environment for transparent and 
competitive elections.  End summary. 
Other Russia Leaders Unable To Reach Samara 
2. (SBU)  Despite the May 11 decision by Samara authorities 
to allow a "March of Dissent" to take place on May 18 during 
the EU summit, the march leadership was prevented from 
departing Moscow.  On May 18, Other Russia leaders Garry 
Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, along with a group of about 25 
others,  including journalists from the Wall Street Journal 
and the Daily Telegraph, had their airplane tickets and 
passports taken away at Moscow's Sheremetovo airport when 
they were checking in for their flight to Samara.  Kasparov 
told us that the authorities had offered no explanation for 
their action and had refused to speak with his lawyer. We 
understand that most of the would-be march participants and 
observers, including Amcit WSJ correspondent Alan Cullison, 
later had their passports returned.  Cullison's ticket was 
not returned and the (unbelievable) explanation given was 
that the authorities had concerns that it was counterfeit. 
3. (SBU)  Separately, "For Human Rights" leader Lev Ponomarev 
reported that a total of thirteen people had their 
documentation confiscated and that they were being 
interviewed individually on possible charges of ticket 
forgery.  According to Ponomarev, three of Kasparov's 
assistants did manage to check in, but were then denied 
4. (U)  Today's events capped a series of law enforcement 
maneuvers to disrupt the organization of the march.  On May 
17.  Aleksandr Petrov from Human Rights Watch was held for 
having a counterfeit ticket and passport, and Red Youth 
Vanguard leader Sergey Udaltsov was questioned, allegedly 
because he resembled someone being sought by the police. 
Both missed their flights to Samara.  In Samara, authorities 
detained United Civil Front (UCF) executive director Denis 
Bilunov and seized the 95,000 RUR (almost USD 4,000) he was 
carrying for UCF arrangements, alleging it was counterfeit 
and needed to be examined. 
5. (U)  A Moscow Helsinki Group observer and a Nizhniy 
Novgorod human rights lawyer were briefly detained upon their 
arrival in Samara on May 14 for allegedly matching 
descriptions of wanted criminals.  Aleksandr Lashmankin, an 
activist who has been supportive of Other Russia detainees, 
was planning to hold an "Intergalactic Libertarian Forum" on 
May 16-18.  Authorities seized his computer equipment, 
allegedly as part of a crackdown on the use of unlicensed 
software.  On May 14, two unidentified assailants robbed and 
beat Lashmankin with baseball bats, causing head injuries. 
On May 15, authorities detained two other march organizers 
for identification checks and fingerprinting but later 
released them. 
Law Enforcement Prepared for Trouble 
6. (SBU)  In a May 17 conversation, Moscow Helsinki Group 
program director Nina Tagankina said that Lyudmila Alekseeva 
had written a letter to Prosecutor General Yuriy Chayka and 
Minister of the Interior Rashid Nurgaliev laying out 
appropriate behavior for law enforcement activity during the 
march.  Alekseeva underscored her concern that federal 
security forces would be more inclined than local militia to 
behave badly. 
MOSCOW 00002331  002 OF 002 
7. (U)  While Samara's Chief of Internal Affairs denied that 
OMON riot police would be present at the march, he did 
promise a 1,000-strong militia presence.  He warned that the 
slightest deviation from the planned march route would be 
deemed a violation.  Despite the detentions an
d police 
warnings, one activist in Samara told us May 18 that 
organizers intended to hold the march as scheduled. 
GOR Actions Buoy Other Russia 
8. (C) In an Izvestiya article, Politika Foundation president 
Vyacheslav Nikonov argued that the public security measures 
that authorities are undertaking are justified and comparable 
to, if not less draconian than, those German authorities are 
overseeing in preparation for disturbances by 
anti-globalization activists at the G8 summit.  Oleg 
Buklemishev, an aide to Mikhail Kasyanov, told us that 
authorities had simply extended Other Russia a lifeline, as 
allies like Kasyanov's People's Democratic Union distanced 
themselves from the demonstrations, which they view as 
"excessively provocative in the current political 
atmosphere."  Russian Republican party leader Vladimir 
Ryzhkov, who predicts the collapse of Other Russia due to 
increasing divisions among the ad hoc alliance, concurred 
that official overreaction was Other Russia's saving grace. 
U.S. Concern Conveyed 
9. (C) Following news of the airport stand-off with Other 
Russia activists, we conveyed our strong concern to William 
Smirnov, deputy chair of the Presidential Commission for 
Human Rights and Civil Society Development, and to Georgiy 
Kunadze, Human Rights Ombudsman Lukin's Deputy. Smirnov told 
us that the authorities' actions had been an unpleasant 
surprise.  While Chairwoman Panfilova was not in Moscow, 
Smirnov reiterated that the commission's position was clear: 
internationally recognized norms of freedom of speech and 
assembly must be followed.  Kunadze, "speaking privately," 
conveyed his "disgust" at today's actions, which he 
characterized as a de facto humiliation and violation of 
marchers' rights.  Kunadze noted that Lukin was in 
Yekaterinburg, but undertook to convey our concerns.  He 
noted that Lukin intends to issue a broader report on the law 
enforcement organ's methods of dealing with the opposition. 
The overreaction will feed a cycle of increasing attention 
and criticism, as well as support for Other Russia, that 
authorities do not want, he said. Human Rights Watch's Petrov 
said that authorities had factored international criticism 
into their thinking and did not believe it outweighed their 
intent to isolate and intimidate the opposition. 
10. (SBU)  The German Embassy told us that Chancellor Merkel 
was informed of the situation and that, at a May 18 press 
conference, she expressed her concern that the opposition 
leaders had been prevented from traveling to Samara, and 
hoped that they would be allowed to express their views.  At 
the same press conference, President Putin replied that he 
had nothing against the march, and termed the actions of law 
enforcement, "not always justified." 
11. (SBU)  Later in the afternoon of May 18, the Ambassador 
contacted DFM Yakovenko to underscore our strong concerns, 
and the need for Russia to create an environment for 
transparent and competitive elections.  Kakavenko had no 
substantive response, but said he would look into the 
incident.  We will continue to urge Ella Pamfilova and 
Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to call for restraint. 


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