Actvists Openly Criticize Putin at Rally

rally082310.jpgRFE/RL brings this report and video from Moscow’s weekend rallly and concert, organized by Khimki forest activists. Uncharacteristically, the event received permission from city officials. But the permission was revoked at the last minute. When authrities prevented the use of sound equipment, the rally took on increasingly political dimensions:

The roughly 2,000 people who showed up were met with the usual heavy police presence, with officers in riot gear and police vehicles surrounding the square. Those attending the rally were forced to stand in long lines to pass through metal detectors.

Inside the square, demonstrators chanted “Freedom!” They were protesting the building of a highway through a protected forest in the northwestern Moscow suburb of Khimki, an issue that’s drawn national attention.

Still, police arrested one of the organizers at the start of the rally and blocked anyone carrying musical instruments or audio equipment from attending.

But veteran rock musician Yury Shevchuk — lead singer of the rock band DDT, who were scheduled to perform at the canceled concert — nevertheless sang songs without a microphone and strummed an acoustic guitar. He told the crowd he took part in the protest because nature in Russia was dying off. 

“We musicians wanted to put on a concert to defend nature, the fields, forests, and Lake Baikal. The Khimki forest has become a symbol for everyone,” Shevchuk said.

Shevchuk is openly critical of the authorities, and made waves in May when he took part in a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He openly challenged the country’s authoritarian leader, saying demonstrations in Russia are broken up by “repressive” security services.

Photo:Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP