Several opposition rallies are planned to take place in Moscow over the weekend, including marches in support of jailed opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov and entrepreneur Alexei Kozlov, and a demonstration against a pro-Kremlin documentary alleging Russians were paid to attend recent vote fraud protests.
On Saturday, Udaltsov and Kozlov supporters will gather on central Pushkinskaya Square at 2 pm Moscow time (10:00 GMT), a leader of the unregistered People’s Freedom Party (Parnas), Boris Nemtsov, said.
Nadezhda Mityushkina, a senior member of the opposition movement Solidarnost (Solidarity), said the Moscow Mayor’s Office turned down the meeting organizers’ request to authorize a demonstration on Pushkinskaya Square. Therefore, Nemtsov said, the gathering will take place in the format of a public meeting with opposition lawmaker Gennady Gudkov.
In line with Russian laws, public demonstrations need to be sanctioned by the authorities. Lawmakers, however, have the right to organize meetings with members of the public without requesting special permission from the government. Meanwhile, a similar meeting held on Pushkinskaya Squre on March 5, the day after Russia’s presidential elections won by Vladimir Putin, was dispersed by police.
Sergei Udaltsov, a leader of the Left Front opposition movement, was arrested in central Moscow last Thursday over his attempt to organize an unsanctioned demonstration following a post-election opposition rally on the Novy Arbat street. He was initially sentenced to 10 days in jail; however, on Friday, a Moscow court overturned the ruling, replacing it with a $30 fine.
Udaltsov has refused to plead guilty and said he will appeal the decision.
Kozlov, whose case was championed by protesters at recent opposition rallies, was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud on Thursday. The 38-year-old entrepreneur is accused of stealing shares of a leather production company through a fraudulent scheme in 2006.
In 2009, the businessman was given seven years behind bars and has already served half of his sentence. A public campaign organized by his wife, journalist Olga Romanova, ended with the Supreme Court ordering a retrial last September.
Kozlov has denied any wrongdoing and insisted the case was fabricated on the orders of his former business partner, ex-Russian Senator Vladimir Slutsker, over a dispute between the two men. Slutsker, in turn, has denied the allegations.
Late on Saturday, activists from the opposition group Proryv (Breakthrough) will stage an overnight demonstration on downtown Manezh Square near the Kremlin. Participants in the demonstration, which is due to start at 11 pm Moscow time (19:00 GMT) and last until 7 am (03:00 GMT) on Sunday, will be carrying white flowers and balloons, the color and symbols of the protest movement calling for free elections in Russia.
“We are preparing to occupy squares across the city and remain their,” the group said in a statement issued ahead of the demonstration. “We are going to do it peacefully, without arms; we will not hold anything more threatening in our hands than a flower and a balloon.”
Protest against ‘Kremlin propaganda’
On Sunday, opposition activists will stage a rally near the Ostankino television center in northern Moscow to protest against a documentary aired on Thursday by the state-controlled NTV channel. The 36-minute video, called “Anatomy of a Protest,” suggests that participants in recent anti-Putin demonstrations were paid to attend the rallies.
Opposition leaders and activists condemned the film as “insolent lies and provocation.” NTV's website was also attacked by hackers on Friday.
The channel is planning to show the video again on Sunday evening, its spokesperson said.
Some 1,600 people have signed up on Facebook and Russian social network VKontakte to attend the rally, and another 1,500 said they may join the protest.
The demonstration has not been sanctioned by the authorities.