10MOSCOW240, DISSENTERS’ MARCHES VENT ANTI-PUTIN STEAM,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MOSCOW240 2010-02-01 15:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3139
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0240/01 0321526
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011526Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6132
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000240 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2020 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR KDEM RS
SUBJECT: DISSENTERS' MARCHES VENT ANTI-PUTIN STEAM, 
HIGHLIGHT FEAR OF PUBLIC DISSENT 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John R. Beyrle for reasons 1.4(b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary: Opponents of the current political system 
staged rallies throughout Russia during the weekend of 
January 30-31. In Kaliningrad, thousands representing a wide 
range of political views gathered ostensibly to protest 
higher regional taxes, but also voiced their dissatisfaction 
with PM Putin.  Smaller rallies also took place in St. 
Petersburg, Vladivostok and other cities.  In Moscow, 
although city authorities denied permits to protesters, 
between 500 and 1000 people gathered at Triumfalnaya Square. 
They observed the prohibition on publicly displaying banners 
with political messages, but did chant anti-Putin slogans and 
resisted police measures to disperse them.  While some force 
was used to remove more than 100 unwilling to vacate the 
square voluntarily, and some prominent leaders were detained, 
no special SWAT forces were used for crowd control and all 
detainees were released within 3 hours -- a modest 
"improvement" in tactics from last time.  But the increasing 
personalization of the protests, singling out Putin, is 
likely to lead to a tougher approach in the future.  End 
Summary. 
 
----------- 
Kaliningrad 
----------- 
 
2. (U)  On January 30th the Solidarity Movement organized a 
rally which drew approximately 8000 demonstrators, including 
representatives from the Communist Party, Yabloko, Right 
Cause, Patriots of Russia and the LDPR -- every political 
party except for United Russia and Just Russia.  Originally 
intended to generate grass-roots opposition to a proposed 
transportation tax hike, the regional administration withdrew 
a bill to raise the tax before the event took place. 
Solidarity organizers continued planning, however, and 
focused speeches on demands for broader political freedoms. 
Protesters openly shouted anti-Putin slogans, as motorists 
joined in protest by honking their horns and blocking 
traffic.  Solidarity leader Boris Nemtsov highlighted 
disparities between the rights of Kaliningrad citizens and 
those of the European states which border the enclave.  There 
were no reports of violence or use of force by police, though 
some protest leaders, including Nemtsov, were detained and 
then released.  Nemtsov was able to travel back to Moscow in 
time to attend the Dissenter's march the following day. 
 
3. (SBU) A Kaliningrad labor leader and head of the 
longshoreman trade union, as well as regional chairman of the 
Patriots of Russia party, told CG St. Petersburg the proposed 
increase in the transport tax in the region was intolerable, 
as it was already the highest in all of Russia.  He also 
noted that it was not surprising the protests expanded to 
call for the resignation of PM Putin, as people were well 
aware that Governor Boos, with whom resident of the enclave 
were generally unhappy, was appointed by Putin, and the close 
ties between the two were easy to see.  He went on to say 
that that people in the city are beginning to understand that 
Putin's United Russia is attempting to lock people into a 
Soviet-style bureaucratic and one-party state, and that 
people opposed that and are becoming more vocal.  His 
comments tying together Boos and Putin matched those by 
Nemtsov, who declared that Governor Boos is no better than 
Putin himself.  Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Alexey 
Malashenko declared the situation in Kaliningrad proves that 
the real threat to the Kremlin comes not from distant 
political separatist movements, such as in the Northern 
Caucuses, but rather from economic separatism in various 
regions, such as the far East and now Kaliningrad, whose 
interests do not coincide with Moscow's. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Moscow - Protesters Detained, Observers Monitored 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4. (C)  Approximately 500 demonstrators, among them Moscow 
Helsinki Group Chairwoman Ludmilla Alekseyeva, Memorial human 
rights group leader Oleg Orlov and Nemtsov, joined by an 
equal number of observers (including emboff) gathered at 
Triumfalnaya Square (formerly Mayakovskaya) in the 
sub-freezing cold and darkness at 6 PM January 31 for a 
Dissenters' March to highlight Article 31 of the Russian 
Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right of peaceful 
assembly.  Police officers lined the perimeter of the square, 
but in contrast to earlier protests special forces (OMON) 
were present only in small numbers and on pre-deployed police 
buses.  Police buses were also parked bumper-to-bumper along 
edges of the square delineated on one side by the shopping 
district thoroughfare Tverskaya Street, and on another the 
 
MOSCOW 00000240  002 OF 003 
 
 
Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and adjacent metro stop.  Onlookers 
could only watch demonstrators on the square from a distance 
of 20-30 meters from behind barriers guarded by police. 
Plain clothes "officers" moved slowly up and down the
 barrier 
line with video cameras, changing angles to be able to film 
all observers in the three to four person deep crowd. 
Suggestions from police officers barking into bullhorns that 
onlookers disperse were ignored, with some observers shouting 
back at police that they should be ashamed of themselves. 
MVD/FSB cameramen atop police buses closer to the 
demonstration recorded every moment and speech of the 
demonstration, as well. 
 
5. (C) By the time police moved in to detain demonstrators 
who refused to vacate the square, Alekseyeva had departed. 
She told us February 1 that she decided to leave as 
demonstrators were being forced from the square.  Nemtsov and 
Orlov were detained.  As the first buses prepared to roll 
from the square, police opened barriers to let them out. 
Detainees inside two buses unfurled banners calling for 
"Russia without Putin," which aroused onlookers, including 
parents with children, students and the elderly, to shout 
support.  In the course of the 90 minutes at the square, 
emboff chatted with a range of onlookers, most of whom 
expressed sympathy for the demonstrators.  Whether 
identifying themselves as Communists, Solidarity supporters 
or apolitical, they uniformly disagreed with the "inhumane" 
way in which authorities responded to the gathering, and 
supported the demonstrators' right to publicly meet and 
deliver their views. 
 
6. (C) We spoke with "For Human Rights" leader Lev Ponomarev 
at the demonstration and then again by phone February 1.  He 
said that he was pleased with the fact that so many people 
participated or observed, and that Moscow authorities had 
heeded his group's call not to use OMON forces for crowd 
management.  He noted that some persons in the process of 
being detained were roughed up, but overall he had praise for 
the way in which police handled the event.  (Note: Solidarity 
Movement member Stanislav Kulikovsky told us he thought 
overall there were many more law enforcement personnel 
present than at previous Dissenters' Marches. End Note) 
Human rights activist Yuriy Dzhibladze, who was detained, 
echoed the statements about police conduct.  He told us 
February 1 that only those who resisted detention were 
roughed up, and he said he did not witness any beatings.  He 
reported that most detainees were Solidarity activists, a 
smaller number were National Bolsheviks, and another group, 
including himself, were human rights professionals.  Police 
at the station told him that they were uncomfortable with 
having to detain so many people, but that they had 
instructions from "higher levels" that they were to take into 
custody all who refused to leave the square.  Both Dzhibladze 
and Ponomarev contrasted police behavior at the January 31 
event with that at the January 19 public commemoration of the 
first anniversary of the murders of Stanislav Markelov and 
Anastasia Baburina, where police used tear gas and excessive 
force to disperse demonstrators. 
 
------------------------------- 
Supporting Actions - 31 January 
------------------------------- 
 
7. (U)  Parallel Dissenters' Marches were held in St. 
Petersburg, Astrakhan, Irkutsk, Omsk, Murmansk and 
Vladivostok, though on a much smaller scale.  The Vladivostok 
protest was authorized by local authorities and drew 
approximately 20 participants without incident. 
Approximately 100 people took part in an unauthorized Protest 
31 in St. Petersburg on January 31.  This was the first such 
Dissenters' March in St. Petersburg organized by Garry 
Kasparov's United Civil Front.  About 30 protesters and 
observers were detained and charged with protesting without 
legal permission.  Despite the arrests, organizers expect 
that the next protest will take place in St. Petersburg as 
scheduled on March 31. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
8. (C) It appears that the outcry and negative publicity 
surrounding the violence and tear gas used against protesters 
in Moscow January 19 resulted in the relatively more 
restrained response January 31.  But in contrast to 
Kaliningrad, where a huge and pointedly anti-Putin protest 
took place with little police interference, Moscow 
authorities still overplayed their hand.  The personalization 
of public protest against Putin is still a relatively new 
 
MOSCOW 00000240  003 OF 003 
 
 
phenomenon, one unlikely to be tolerated or allowed to 
spread.  End Comment. 
Beyrle

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