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 Tuesday, 26 June 2007
G8 RUSSIA: Legal Advice PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 May 2006
Legal advice for people coming to G8 protest actions in Russia


It is far from easy for an average Russian citizen to make an invitation required for a visa. Thus legal group of Network Against G8 has decided to not even attempt to help with the invitations. But in almost any country it is rather easy to acquire a Russian visa through a travel agency. So make comparing what they have to offer - in terms of prices and chances to have a registration. Share this information with other people you know that might be interested to travel from your area. Pass information and links to us, so that we could help other people interested to travel from your area. We have not decided yet, if we will publish such information online - perhaps we do not want to give Russian authorities hints which travel agencies activists are about to use. If there are many people interested to come from your area, it could be a good idea to use different travel agencies and to submit applications separately.

During G8 meeting in St. Petersburg in July 2006, city will be closed for other foreign citizens except those of the summit organization. Thus, when applying a visa through a tourist agency of your choice, select any other city than St. Peterburg as your destination (for example Moscow).
Destination city will not be printed to visa itself, thus it is unlikely that this trick will result any negative consequences for you.


According to law, a foreign citizen, coming to Russia for a period of more than three days, should register during three days. In case of moving from a location to another, a foreign citizen should register during three WORKING DAYS from arrival to the new place from the previous one. For a registration, you should pass authorities your passport (or equivalent document) and migration card which you filled in the border. Do not loose your card - and do not forget to check in the border that authorities put a stamp to your migration card! Many tourist agencies offer you registration only for days you make a booking in hotel or hostel they offer for you. In case you do not want to pay for this hotel, ask if they have other alternatives, and if not, ask from another agency. Unless you have a place to stay in St. Petersburg, staying in a hotel or a hostel would be a good alternative, since for security reasons there will not be common camping for protesters in St. Petersburg. Legal group will also be looking for independent companies who make registration without booking in a hotel - contact us to know if we found something that might be of use for you. It is also not that hard to find such companies on your own while here. Last year, it was still possible to have a registration for a period of one month with twenty dollars without booking in a hotel, we do not know yet what will be the situation next summer, but we expect that it will still be much more cheaper
than booking a room in a hotel.

If you are only coming for the protests for three days or less, it does not make any sense to register at all. If you come to week of build-up actions in Moscow, you may register in Moscow, and then move to St. Petersburg, staying there less than three working days - in this case you must keep a ticket so that you may prove that you have been in the city less than three working days.
Making a registration in St. Petersburg during summit may be pretty

Border guards did not used to care about lack of registration when you are leaving, so few years ago it was only a problem if you were arrested or randomly controlled in the streets. But lately border guards have activated control efforts, mostly to extract bribes from unregistered guests. Chances to get into trouble for a lack of registration are higher in airports than in ground borders. Usual bribe is five hundred rubles (Nineteen dollars), whereas fine for a foreigner for a lack of registration according to law is one to one and half thousand rubles (thrity seven to fifty six dollars). But in case you had not registration when leaving the country, do not pay bribe too eagerly, or border guards may try to get some more.


Let us suppose you happened to be in a spot of an action, which was not agreed with the authorities, or police decided that your behavior was "disturbing public order" and you were arrested. What to do?

First of all, do not panic, there is no reason to worry. In vast majority
of cases, you will loose nothing but time. At second, do not insult cops, but demand them firmly to respect your rights. Law only requires you to submit to legal demands of the police, but not to any other demands. This is a summary of your rights, and some recommendations from us.

1. When talking to you, police officer should present himself, show his/her documents and announce reason of your arrest. In case of an action that was not agreed by authorities ("nesankcionirovannaya akciya"), police should announce that action is not agreed by authorities and ask people to disperse. As long as they do not do this, you have a right to stay in place.
It is rather likely, that in case you refuse to follow police, they will
begin pushing you to police car. You may show passive resistance (sit to ground, do not move, grab hand of a friend), in which case you may be given an additional misdemeanour charge of "refusal to fulfill legal orders of police", which you may question in court, as orders of police were not legal. These charges may result a short jail arrest of up to fifteen days, but in vast majority of the cases court only gives you a fine. In case you choose to resist violently, you may be given felony charges.

2. If you are taken to a police station, officers have a right to keep youthere for three hours, although this norm is often violated. Police should make either "minutes of delivery" ("protokol o dostavlenii") (if they just want to establish your identity), or "minutes of arrest" ("protokol o zaderzhanii") and "minutes of misdemeanour" ("protokol ob administrativnom pravonarushenii"), in case you are accused of having committed one. In case some property of yours was taken away, they should also make "minutes of requisitioning" ("protokol ob izyatii")

3. In case you were arrested, police should announce your location to your family members upon your request and give you a possibility to use an attorney. You have also a right to read all minutes and transcriptions, to write explanations with your own hands to respective sections (or a separate additional list) of the minutes, to which you may include information on conditions of arrest, illegal actions by police officers and so on. It is important to write to minutes if before arrest you were not asked to leave spot of action, and if you were threatened, verbally abused or beaten up during the arrest.

4. You have a right to refuse from giving any testimony, by referring to 51st article of the Constitution of the Russian Federation ("Nobody should give testimony against himself or his close relatives..."). In this case you have a chance to consult an attorney before giving testimony in court. This is what human rights activists recommend. You may include notion on illegal actions of police to minutes even if you declined from giving any testimony.
In case you were beaten up during arrest, visit clinic immediately when you are free in order to have a proof on paper to be used against police later on.

5. In any moment of the process, you may ask participation of your public defender or an attorney. A foreign citizen has a right to have a translator during interrogations and in the court, and also to have police to contact consulate of his country and announce arrest.

6. Take care that each point of the minutes which relates to your case was filled correctly. You have right not to announce your place of work and studies. Carefully read any documents before subscribing them. It is recommend to draw line to all fields of the minutes that were not filled.
Try to receive copies of minutes on the spot, they may be of use when complaining about actions of police officers. You have a right to receive copies of all minutes.

7. Police officers have not right to take your passport. If they try to keep your passport as a deposit to have you appear in a court later, make a protest. Refuse to leave police station until you are given back your passport, point out that it is illegal to take away your passport.

8. In case police refuses all your demands to follow law, point out clearly and peacefully that you are not make all this fuss just for the sake of it, but in case police keeps taking illegal actions, you have no other way but to submit a complaint to prosecutor. You may demand to talk to "station master" ("dezhurniy po otdelenie"), who is responsible for everything that takes place in the police station, and make same note to him as well. Where an average police officer may hide his name, it is no any trouble for a prosecutor to find out the station master.

9. If you are not taken to court immediately after finishing with the
minutes, most likely you will be asked to sign "obligation to show up in court" ("obyazatelstvo o yavke"). You may sign this document without hesitation, as it is not a subpoena and has no any legally binding force whatsoever - you may not be punished for not fulfilling it.
If you do not show up in court in given date, judge should send a subpoena to your place of residence. Only if you still do not show up after this, judge has a right to make a decision without you being present.
Usually, if person accused of misdemeanor does not appear in court, process is delayed for an indefinite period, and after 2 months process is closed and forgotten.

10. You have a right to have an attorney in a court process. In case you were not released after writing minutes but taken to court, make a written plea to delay court for a few days, so that you could have a lawyer and that lawyer could acquaintance himself with materials of the case. Never agree to have a public lawyer proposed by the court! In case judge agrees to delay case and you are free, you may discuss with an attorney about further steps to be taken.

11. Most likely you will be accused according to article 20.2 of
administrative codex "Violation of established order of organization or
realization of a meeting, demonstration, march or picket". Organizer of an action may be fined an amount of 10-20 monthly minimal wages, which is currently 1000-2000 rubles (30-60 euros), whereas a participator may be fined an amount of 5-10 monthly minimal wages (15-30 euros). But in most of the cases you may avoid this fine.

12. There are plenty of legal opportunities for authorities to shorten
validity period of your visa down to three following days, for example if they consider you "a danger to national security", or if you commit any misdemeanor, such as a failure to register in time. In case you do not leave Russia during these three days, you may deported, but even in this case it is unlikely that you end up to a detention center, since they are full - most likely they just threat you with a detention but let you out to the street with an annulled visa, demanding that you get to border on your own.
In case you were sentenced to an arrest for a few days, you have a right to overstay in Russia.

13. If court took place, but you do not agree with the decision, you may appeal decision of the court to court of appeal during 10 days. Do not waste time, but immediately contact a lawyer or a human rights activist who may help you in preparing the appeal.

2006 G8 Summit in St.Petersburg


Practical advice for participants of protest actions in Russia

This is second of two texts produced by Network Against G8 (SPB8) legal group for people interested of participating to protest actions in Russia. First article, "legal advice for people coming to G8 protest actions in Russia" is available in SPB8 website, http://spb8.hardcore.lt.

This text was originally written for participators of protest actions from Russia, but it can help foreigners to understand situation and methods of organization of protests and communication with law-enforcement agencies, that are practiced in Russia.

Activists in Russia organize two different kinds of protest actions - legal and illegal. This text consider consequences you may face participating to either kind of action - we do not go into detail to tactical considerations on making a choice between them.

According to administrative codex, an action should be legal if it is announced 3-15 days in prior to local police department. In practice this is not a case, and authorities demand a permission, when police arrives they will demand a paper from local police department which proves that they have approved action. If police department refuses to grant such a document with some makeup reason ("nuisance to traffic", "nuisance to Pepsi promotion action nearby" etc.) , you may sue them and even win the case, but after months of wearing legal procedures your victory will hardly be worth of it.

If authorities do not like your ideas, it will not be much of a problem to find some formal reason to ban your action. During such massive events such as G8 summit, it may not be expected that informal grassroots groups with radical politics (or private citizens suspected of connections to such groups) will be given permissions to demonstrate. What comes to "law-abiding opposition" such as Social Forums, it remains to be seen. But if you want to be in the streets in the first place, you should be prepared to situation when your action is getting banned. Some anarchists found appealing permissions objectionable in principle - and no doubt it is humiliating and definitely not worth of effort if you know you will be banned anyway, since it gives initiative to authorities.

Arrests are seldom made in legal actions - exceptions are when participators engage in "libeling president", burn torches or flags, engage in a fight with cops and so on. But in any bigger legal action there will be masses of police, and at least in Moscow they are almost always surrounded by riot fences and metal detectors, and action becomes a sorry zoo of political animals for passers by to gawk. Thus there is less and less meaningful ways to protest legally.

Illegal actions

A mere participation to an illegal action is a misdemeanor, and police has a right to arrest and fine you. Usually police is just picking up few persons for the record, such as those holding banners or engaging in an argument with them, and tries to disperse the rest. Thus, if you step back when police starts to grab people, it is unlikely that you get arrested. However it is better not to run, since this would attract police attention.

Advantage of an illegal action in comparison with a legal one, is that before police shows up, you may establish a creative space without any limitations - you may burn some symbols or scan any slogans, this during 15 minutes until arrival of the police. For a success of an illegal action, it is crucial that you have a plan which is at least to some extent known to all participators. Sometimes actions in Russia continue only 10 minutes, if goal is to avoid any arrests. Another alternative is to have a moving demonstration, as it is much difficult to stop a moving demonstration - this demands at least a few dozen polices or OMON (riot police) to form a cordon.

Going to the action you should keep in mind that policemen and special services use phone tapping, read e-mails and can wait for you on the spot of action. That's why think over and discuss the plan of action beforehand, if it's possible, outdoors and take accumulators out from mobile phones. Distribute roles; think over several scenarios, send a man to the spot of action an hour before the start, in order to describe to others the situation (if there is a bus with riot police waiting for you, if additional guards are there and so on). If action is big, don't gather in big crowds before action, but also don't lose sight of your friends.

Act according to the plan immediately after coming to the spot of action, don't wait, you have not so much time. If the spot of action wasn't discovered, you have a minimum of 15 minutes until police comes, called by somebody call. Bear in mind that it's much more difficult to arrest moving demonstration than a group of people standing on one place.


If you see somebody getting arrested, pass the information on as quickly as possible. From documents take only passport to the action. In case you are working or studying in Russia, don't tell police your place of working or studying and don't take with you any documents, with which help it can be defined. Police or representatives of special services can send a report there and officers can deduct a fine from your grant or salary.

In case you have a pre-paid mobile phone, make sure you have money in account because any of you can get to police station, at unlikely worst case for several days. If you have been arrested, find a moment when policemen don't pay attention to you and hide your self-phone to boot or to sock, having turned off ringing tones beforehand. After taking you to police station policemen will ask to take everything out of your pockets and can take away your mobile phone, then you have no opportunity to be in touch with your friends. When you are about to be put to a cell, politely ask to go to the toilet. Calmly take out mobile phone in toilet and call someone, who is responsible for it, or send sms. Inform him in what police station you are, how many of you are there and, if it possible, names and surnames. Ask to keep in touch by sms.

Supporting arrested

Before action choose a person, who will be responsible for the help of arrested people. This person shouldn't take active part in action and not to be arrested. Two responsible people can be chosen, since risk of both getting arrested is even less. Every participant of the action should have phone number of these people. In case of arrest, responsible person should organize moral pressure to the duty in police station (to call and ask what happens with arrested), if it's necessary to provide arrested with the help of lawyer and with food (because he can be kept at police station for a night till trial), and also connecting with relatives on the demand of arrested.

If action is big, you may try to dearrest arrested friends. If you see, that one of your friends is about to get arrested, try to liberate him with other participants of the action. It's necessary to surround the police car immediately and to block its movement untill the arrested is released. If your friend just was stopped or is being carried away by police, you can grab him back. As many as possible should take part in dearrest. Nevertheless if you missed it and your friend was taken to the police station, fastly organize a solidarity picket and wait near the entrance of the police station until he is released . But if you managed to agitate to go to police station only a couple of ten people, it does not make sense to go there. Such a small amount of people will not be able to influence on the police, but their faces will be fixed in police's video, because cameras are almost near all police stations.

Leaving an action

Even after legal actions, police may try to snatch some participants for "educational reasons" or for interrogations. Thus leave the spot of action only with a crowd of other participants. It's better to get on to public transport or to go far away from the place of action by the metro with a big group of people. Be convinced that nobody follows you, and only then disperse. If somebody follows you, try to drop him from your heels or go to sit to any crowded cafe or any other place and call friends for help. Sometimes even insignificant resistance, explicit refusal to voluntarily follow plain clothes police can lead them to leave you alone, as they do not want to attract attention. They don't have any legal reasons to arrest you half an hour later the end of action. In any case don't meet to evaluate success of the action close to spot of the action.

Facing misdemeanor charges

Usually, the people who are arrested during actions are accused of "violation of the legal process of holding an action" (that is, if action was not legal) or "disobedience to the policemen's legal requirements". These are the articles of the administrative codex, according to which you can be fined for the sum from 500 to 2000 rubles, and for "disobedience" you can get up to 15 days of prison, but imprisonment for taking part in actions is given very rare.

"Organizers" may face slightly more severe sanctions. One of your task is to prove in court that you was not "an organizer" without naming any of them. You may tell that nobody called you to go to the action, that you knew about it from leaflet or Internet. If cops told that you weren't alone, answer that you met friends only on the action and came up to greet them, and you didn't know that the action was not legalized. Perhaps you was given a banner, but you do not know the guy who gave it. If you are charged with the blockade of road or building, you may tell something like "everybody started to run somewhere, so did I", or "everybody started to go, and so did I". If cops do not have direct proof of your active participation in the action, you can tell, that you just walking nearby, stopped to look and was arrested.

Have in mind, that official report is usually written by the cop, who arrested you, and as the second witness is taken the first one who was at hand. During the judge's interrogation of cops, ask them the questions like "Where exactly I was arrested?", "What was I doing that moment?". Cops will contradict each other. Try to invite witnesses, who can prove, that you was arrested by another policeman. Become acquainted with the official report before the trial (you have this right!). Cops often get confused and contradict each other; it can be used for refutation of witnesses.

If you are accused of "disobedience to the policemen's legal requirements", keep in mind, that cops rarely do everything legally. For example, if the policeman didn't introduce himself, didn't announce to people that the action was not legalized unsanctioned, or didn't demanded them to disperse, his demand to follow him to the police car is illegal. Moreover, the arrest, threats, beating, etc of a person in a legalized actions are illegal. You can say that you defended yourself from the blows, that could seriously damage your health, bring some witnesses, who describe mockeries at you. If the plain clothes officers arrested you without producing their official documents, you can't be convicted. Don't use bad language or call cops the words that can be defined as insulting. Nevertheless, if you were sentenced to fine, don't hurry to pay it. Judicial officer recovers fines according to the judge's decision. With help of a lawyer or human rights activists, you may made an appeal against fine.

Facing felony charges

If you are facing a felony charge (which usually only happens if there is some political pressure against you), you have to find a lawyer and to make noise about it. Ask human rights' activists and deputies to write letters to the law-enforcement agencies. Send statement to any accessible Mass-Media, organize the signing of it by some respected persons and great number of common people. Study carefully article of the criminal codex (??) according to which you are accused. Find similar article in codex of administrative infringements of the law (????) and try to understand what is the difference between them (big damage, intention, etc.). During interrogations and trial present your activities in such way that only the administrative code can be applied to your case. If you have no opportunity to engage a lawyer, apply for a piece of advice to the lawyers of human rights' organizations. Until you didn't decide what to tell, didn't find a lawyer and so on, refuse of giving any testimonies. You have a right to do it during the inquiry and trial according to the article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Keep in mind, that burning, tearing, trampling down or another outrage" at Russian flag is a criminal article and it's punished with two years of probation.

Some additional pieces of advice for foreigners

To increase chances of a successful crossing the Russian boarder during holding of summit, try to wear clothes, which are common in your country. Even in ordinary time cops and frontier guards stop and in addition check documents of foreigners, who look alternatively. Before the travel find at Internet some information about any cultural event in Russia, that isn't connected with politics. Thus you will be able to ground frontier guards the aim of your coming. If you have no friends, who have already done visa to Russia and can give you a piece of advice, apply for invitation to tourist agency at the link http://travelmart.ru/english.html. An invitation for a month costs 25 euro and it is sent directly to Russian embassy in your country. We have no contact with this rganization, but we can say, that the experience of dealing with it was successful.

If you speak Russian badly, during communication with the police pretend that you don't speak it at all. Very often it stumps policemen and they prefer to leave you as fast as it possible, especially if you are a citizen of a "prestigious European country". Words passport" and "visa" sounds in Russian almost the same as in English, it's better to produce cops passport, tickets, to point at visa, to express indignation and demand (in any language) immediately invite a representative of embassy (ask "zvanite v pasolstva"). Unlike cops, a lot of young people in big cities speak English. If you can't find something, come to any young person and ask if he speaks English. In five minutes you'll exactly find such one. If the person speaks languages, he for sure would try to help you.

More details you can find at www.spb8.net, http://spb8.hardcore.lt, the section "Human rights' activity"

contact e-mail: Piter.legalatyahoo.com

Last Updated ( Friday, 26 May 2006 )
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