Monday, 20 September 2010

Global protests for Khimki hostages

PROTESTS have been held all over the world calling for the Khimki hostages to be released.

Events in support of Gaskarov and Solopov were also held in St Petersburg, Moscow (pictured), Irkutsk, Tyumen, Kaliningrad, Kiev, London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Stockholm, New York and Seattle, among other cities.

The St Petersburg Times report explains the two activists were imprisoned after an anarchists’ protest in front of the headquarters of the Khimki administration, which is instrumental in destroying the Khimki Forest to make way for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin-backed toll highway project to connect Moscow and St. Petersburg.

On Sunday, an estimated 150 St. Petersburg anarchists, Antifa activists, environmentalists and residents gathered to demand the release of Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, who were arrested a day after the much-talked-about July 28 demonstration in Khimki in which several hundred participants firing pellet guns and setting off flares left graffiti on the walls of the administration building and broke several windows.

The protest in Khimki was a surprise for the authorities, who have deployed massive police forces to the forest, where preservationists held a vigil to put pressure on them.

The few police patrols at the scene drove away, apparently discouraged by the number of protesters, and did not detain anyone.

Gaskarov and Solopov, high-profile Antifa activists, were detained in Moscow a day after the July 28 rally in what their fellow activists describe as an act of revenge.

Their guilt has not been proven. Charged with disorderly behavior, they face up to seven years in prison.

"It’s not that they were targeted by chance; they were targeted deliberately, because they were anti-fascist movement activists who did not hide their faces, appearing constantly on television, at rallies and other social events,” said Dmitry, an activist with Autonomous Action and an organizer of the St. Petersburg rally. He asked for his last name to be withheld.

Because the police failed to detain anybody during the demo when the Khimki administration building was damaged, they wanted to arrest somebody as a scapegoat,” he said.

“They were there, but the police are trying to present them as the event’s organizers. It’s not clear why they’ve been held in prison for two months; nobody gets put in pre-trial custody on charges of disorderly behavior.”

Gaskarov and Solopov are not allowed to see their relatives, Dmitry said, adding that the police investigation has been declared “closed,” forcing the activists’ first lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin to resign over the investigators’ demand that he sign a written oath promising not to speak about the case.

“Trepashkin had to resign in order to help the public campaign for their release,” Dmitry said.

Activists say that the rally in which the administration building in Khimki was damaged was held when they felt that all other measures taken to save the forest during the three-year struggle had proved ineffective in stopping construction.

“There has been a struggle which lasted for three years against the corruptors, the crooks who were destroying the Khimki Forest, but it didn’t yield any result — quite the opposite, several ecologists and journalists have suffered, such as Mikhail Beketov who has been left permanently crippled after an attack on him, while the OMON special task police and neo-Nazis have been deployed against the environmentalists,” Dmitry said.

“Having tried all methods, there were people who decided that they must show their strength, if the authorities can’t understand any other language.”

The campaign’s rallies were held between Sept. 17 and 20 in anticipation of a court hearing on the activists’ case due later this month.

“A wave of repressions against anti-fascists has begun,” Dmitry said.

“Several people are on a federal wanted list and have had to go into hiding or leave the country, while all the young people who participated in the rallies and were included in the Center E databases (Center for the Prevention of Extremism) have been visited by uniformed and plainclothes men.”

Dmitry said that several activists were beaten and injured during interrogations in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast. “The campaign is also against the repressions that are raging now, mostly in Moscow,” he said.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to construction of the Khimki highway on Aug. 26, after a substantial portion of the forest had already been cut down. Tree-felling could be resumed at any moment.

Information about the campaign is available in several languages at