Latest Demonstrations in Moscow, Explained
2 April, 2017

Following the last weekend’s anti-corruption protests and subsequent mass arrests of 1300 people, a second wave of protests has broken out on the streets of Moscow today. As a result, a further 56 people have been detained. Watch Hromadske’s interview with Russian journalist and founding member of OVD-Info, Grigory Okhotin, who explains the current situation in Moscow.

Of course, everybody was following the mass protests last week, they really were unprecedented, and we know about the detentions in Moscow, and probably other cities too. What do we need to know about the demonstrations in Russia today, about the detentions, the situation in general?

56 people have been detained. It was 3 different events, so they are not organised protests. One of them is against torture, and the other 2 are against the reaction to last Sunday. So there’s not been a lot of detentions, which is good news.

What usually happens to these people? And especially, what happened to those people who had been detained earlier? How long do they usually stay in the police stations? What will happen next for them?

Some of them have stayed, because there are two ways they can be arrested, around 25 days, and about 60-70 people have been arrested, and they will sit there for another 2 weeks maybe, including Alexei Navalny and 10 people from his organisation. Mostly people that haven’t been arrested, they spend 5-12 hours in police stations, or maybe 1 or 2 days. The maximum is 2 days.For now they are waiting for court hearings, and the result for them will be a penalty, around 10-20,000 roubles, I think that’s 300 euros, or something like that. There will be hundreds and hundreds of court hearings over the next 3 week in Moscow, and it’s what we are thinking about right now, how to help these people, because it’s quite the penalty, so we are mostly thinking about legal assistance for these people.

But can you also put this into context for us, because over the last few years there haven’t been that many protests, there were some but not on this scale. These are short term stay in the police stations, then there are court hearings. How can you explain the logic of the Russian law enforcement? What is the general policy?

It’s a really important question, what you need to understand is that there is no common policy. It’s tactics, they do react in very different ways, in different situations and in different political moments. There was a peaceful event on Tverskaya street, but now they have made the decision to detain people, a lot of people, including children. I think this is because they have been surprised about how many people have gone to this event without ‘sanctions’, because it was a totally legal action, but it was not sanctioned by local authorities. There was about 15,000 people there. They have been surprised [by this], and they have made the decision to detain people, because it is not so easy for people to be detained, and it’s quite scary, some of them are still in small police prisons - they are not real prisons, but still - for 2 or 3 weeks. What is also important is that these anti-corruption events in Moscow and St.Petersburg, it was not only Moscow, there have been hundreds of events in different cities, and now what is going on in Russia, police and other institutions are starting to press on those on the streets, they have been asked to take them from schools, and from universities to talk, and it is a kind of political pressure, and what is important is that it is going on right now, every day, in every city, so it is a massive reaction to these protests right now.

The big story in the media was that there was a lot of school kids taking part in these protests. Were they also detained? What is happening to them? Because some of them won’t be considered ‘adult’ enough, so how are they treated?

The protesters at these events really were very young, it was not only school kids, but students aged something like 16-21, and you can see that in videos on YouTube. But in terms of detentions, there was about 70 people, so about 5-6% of all the people detained. Those who are younger than 18 are now free, because they can’t even be arrested, [according to] Russian legislation, so they spent around 5 hours in the police station waiting for their parents. All of them are scared, because there something bad could [happen] to them now in schools.

There was also the protest of the truck drivers, some of them were stopped. Could you elaborate more on that?

It was at the same time, it started on Monday, all the truck drivers in the whole country, there is the situation now that they should pay to use our national roads, so they don’t like that. It’s a huge protest, it started around 1 year ago and it a real social protest, which is fast growing towards political issues too. Now they are facing, what we call, political repression, because some of them have been detained, a lot of soldiers are staying near the trucks. So it’s also a very important part of what is going on now, they are also facing this huge oppression.