in Moscow on the Eve of the Inauguration of the New President
Moscow Empty but the People Does Not Stay Silent
HRC Memorial's Statement
The transfer of power within the “tandem” was marked by
unprecedented carnage and mass arrests in the center of Moscow.
On May 6, 2012, tens of thousands attended a protest against the
usurpation of power through false “elections”. It proved wrong those
who thought that the protests had fizzled out and had predicted that
people would not take to the streets.
How did a peaceful demonstration, approved by the Moscow
authorities, turn into carnage, resulting in dozens of people
(demonstrators and police officers alike) being injured, and
The authorities and the opposition have already accused one another
of organizing the provocation in advance, but both our observations,
and the analysis of numerous reports and videos, show that it was
more complicated than this.
Indeed, the erected cordon did not assist the movement of
demonstrators along the agreed route, but instead directly provoked
anger and protest.
Yes, the authorities prepared to use force, and used the actions of
some more radical protesters as an excuse.
However, inconsistencies in the actions of organizers, and the
irresponsibility of some of them, also contributed to the peaceful
protest escalating into a riot.
The clashes began soon after the main line of demonstrators was
forced to remain on Maliy Kamenniy Bridge. The turning to the right,
into Bolotnaya Square, was unreasonably narrowed by the police
cordon, and people were able to access the site of the demonstration
only by upsetting the ranks.
When the police barred the movement of the line of demonstrators,
the organizers could have made use of mediation by the Human Rights
Ombudsman in Russia, who was there and offered his assistance. This
opportunity was not taken.
Instead, people were called to sit where they standing – on the
bridge. Those behind them, around half the demonstrators, were also
forced to stop.
It is not clear to us whether this “sit-down demonstration” was
simply a reaction to police actions or whether it was a pre-planned
attempt by radicals to change the format of the protest, only
informing the participants and applicants once it had happened.
In any case, the actions of the police cannot be justified on the
grounds of public safety. It is unlikely that the detention of
Udaltsov, Navalny and Nemtsov have contributed to normalizing of the
The confrontation escalated into clashes, a group of demonstrators
attempted to break the police line, and soon police began beating
them with batons, and kicking those who had fallen to the ground.
They beat not only those actively involved in the clashes, but also
elderly people and women who had been standing close-by. This
disproportionate use of force was not the excesses of ordinary
policemen, but the setup of the police leadership. Here is an
example: an elderly man calmly attempted to urge a police officer to
stop the beating, but who in return was himself knocked to the
ground, hitting his head and unable to get up unaided.
In return, police were pelted with burning "fires", plastic bottles
and pieces of asphalt. Claims by some media, that the demonstrators
had armed themselves with stones in advance, do not correspond with
In the end, police split the crowd, forcing some out of the square,
while rigidly detaining others. In all, the number of people taken
to police departments surpassed 650.
On May 7, the center of Moscow was utterly “free” of citizens.
Residents were forbidden from leaving their homes. Wearing a white
ribbon became an excuse for illegal arrests. On Nikitsky Boulevard,
by the House of Journalists, not only those standing peacefully on
the pavement with white ribbons in their buttonholes, but also
customers in a cafe, were caught up in the police “clean-up
operation”: they were grabbed, and tables with food and drink
overturned. The hunt for the “nesoglasnie” ('dissenters') continued
on boulevards and central streets until evening, with the number of
detained rising to over 500.
But the police authorities, it seems, overdid it – their zeal turned
the transfer of power into a comedy of the absurd: even pro-Kremlin
youth groups, who might have portrayed the people's love, were not
allowed onto the government's track. Vladimir Putin entered the
Kremlin through a completely deserted city.
There are already many examples in Russian history in which the
authorities' unwillingness to consider the public led to a
radicalization of protests, this radicalization of protests led to
greater repression by the authorities and to a new level of
opposition, and, again and again, Russia has missed the opportunity
to become a prosperous and free country.
The way in which Mr. Putin's presidency begun gives a new reason to
fear for the future of the country.
May 10, 2012