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Resistance against G8 in Russia. Is there any reason for optimism?

Our friend Alexei has already explained in the article “Get your asses to East” (ABB N19) all main reasons to travel to Russia for anti-G8 events. May be Russia really is not similar to Western Europe but it’s even more interesting. When I get possibility to travel a long way off my house I get cultural shock which make me to look another way to the events which happen at home. I’m happy to be again in usual atmosphere and reflect on my impressions for many months.

What’s is going on in Russia (and ex-USSR area) now? I can tell mainly about Moscow because live there. The international meeting in Kiev gathered record number of people for last three years - about 60 people from at the least 6 countries. In spite of lack of culture of discussion we managed to talk over a lot of topics and found some important solutions.

Preparing of counter-summit has brought up many acute questions more and brought together people who didn’t want to cooperate with each other for many years. For example during three weeks we had a discussion (meeting and in e-mail lists) on safety of participant of actions who are filmed by video-activists. It can hardly be said that all differences were settled but the process is going on.

5th March in Moscow we made the second attempt to have a street-action against the politics of G8. The first one was made during the ministers of finances’ meeting in February and completely collapsed. People discussed what they should do until the last moment, decision was made overnight and sms- announcements were sent to journalists we know. But on the place of meeting with journalists activists were waited by 2 busloads of OMON. 5th March OMON also was on the place of meeting with journalists but activists providently took away journalists and moved to another place to make action.

The idea of action was to combine old pagan holiday (Mardi Gras) with protest against G8. People from Food Not Bombs distributed traditional Russian pancakes for free and leaflets about G8 politics. They planed also to burn a woman of straw (”Maslenitsa”) but didn’t have time for it. 30 minutes after beginning OMON found out action and started to arrest people. Mardi Gras is a celebration in Russia, distribution of pancakes and leaflets on the streets are not forbidden by law but nevertheless 12 people were arrested. The rest (about 30 people) managed to escape. Fortunately the detention passed without violence. This course of events is usual for Russia, nobody was panic-stricken. In general all arrests end after 3-10 hours spent in the police station and with a subpoena to court which you can ignore without any consequences. The next action is planed for 1st of April.

Two weeks ago we held the meeting of the Moscow for part for network Spb8. We discussed the ideas of the Kiev’s meeting and determined to organize in Moscow a preparing week with actions and meetings from 2nd until 13th of July. The idea of this week is to gather together activists from different regions of Russian and other countries and giving them an opportunity to communicate, participate in workshops, seminars, trainings and discussions. Obviously we will not have time for this kind of activities during the protests in St. Petersburg, so they should take place before. We are looking for a place for this meeting and invite everybody to participate to events of this week. Program is not ready yet but we have planned trainings and discussions on topics of nonviolent actions, mass-media and tactical media, how to use law to defend yourself, first aid, workshops about making posters and banners, strategy of movement and other political discussions and playing the drum on the actions.

Anti-repression group has been launched. In Moscow there was a seminar on legal rights of protesters. Text with advice for foreigners and Russians is in preparation. I think rumors on dangers of traveling to Russia are highly exaggerated. Foreigner from Europe or USA is less in danger than any other person in Russia. Of course people may be blocked in the border, but that is the situation everywhere in prior to major protests.

If you are not going around in Armani dresses, it is unlikely that you will be mugged - there are enough native yuppies in Moscow. Nazis do not attack against foreigners with European outlooks (although alternatively looking people may have trouble sometime). In case of arrest police tries to get rid of you as quickly as possible, even if you committed a minor misdemeanor (such as participation to an illegal action). They panic in case there is a risk of lawyers, embassies, journalists and international community to get involved and in this case try to do everything according to book of law. For sure, nobody may guarantee full security, sometimes OMON beats up arrested political activists, but with foreigners that is less likely. Try to make yourself any kind of documents to be shown to police (such as DIY press card of Abolishing the Borders from Below reporter), while engage with them to an active argument with your native language. That is often already enough to completely disorientate cops. All the information remaining concerning visas and juridical information you will soon find in internet in sites connected with the mobilization.

Some points other people wanted me to pass to ABB readers: 1. We do not consider protests against G8-2006 to be business of Russian activists only. Our task is to prepare infrastructure and make decisions on technical questions - but demands of the protests we should formulate together. As we have declared “we are everywhere”, we should also live according to what we have said. We plan to publish a booklet, in which we will include information on which kind of political groups and movements exist in Russia, how to deal with the police, how to move around in cities and so on. 2. Russian authorities and Putin have many times declared, that they are prepared for a dialogue with society, and there have already been several meetings between them and NGO’s. These will of course be very formal ones. However, it seems authorities will worry about their image in front of West before summit and attempts to escape use of force. Thus we hope that it is possible to have some action in St. Petersburg also during very days of the summit.

So which kind of help we need right now? In Russia, even big cities have no much of any activist infrastructure, it is even difficult to find places for meetings. During protests and build-up week we will have to create this infrastructure almost from nothing. We need some funds for this. In Russia, benefit concerts bring almost no any money. We also need articles on influence of G8, World bank and other global capitalist institutions to social and political situation in Russia. It is necessary to raise awareness about G8 in Russia. We need translators from Russian and to Russian language. And we would of course be very happy if you could organize any kind of actions in your city (or village) during Global Day of Action, which is planned to take place 14th of July.

Source: ABB №24

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