Grigory Pasko: Revolution Square Rises Up for Khodorkovsky

Revolution Square Rises Up for Khodorkovsky Picket in support of Khodorkovsky in Chita was noticeable only thanks to a massive police presence By Grigory Pasko, journalist Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Chairman of the Russian Committee of Lawyers in Defense of Human Rights, Yuri Schmidt said in a recent interview with radio «Liberty»: “If twice as many people come to a new ‘March of Those Who Disagree’ than to the previous one, and another twice as many to the next one, the power will realize at last that the time has come to pack up its credit cards and stuff and quickly get going, to the Maldives or wherever, someplace where it has its own property. Otherwise, truly, things will be bad for it…” ploshchad2.jpg Photo of Chita’s Revolution Square by Grigory Pasko Back in Soviet times, I often heard the phrase: you can’t beat the state. And if you try, then it will break you and trample you. Those who said these things no doubt had in mind people who acted individually: these, the state did indeed trample on and send off to faraway camps. But here’s a fact: opposition to the state did not stop! There was only a small handful of dissidents, and yet the totalitarian state – the USSR – with its gigantic mechanism of repression – the KGB – crumbled nevertheless. Today, Russia is returning to totalitarianism, and to the almightiness of the KGB. And once again there are small handfuls of people who are trying to oppose this evil. There aren’t many of them. But they do exist. The policemen began to appear on Revolution Square long before the start of the picket in support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Chita. Interestingly, they appeared simultaneously from all corners of the square. You could see from the expressions on their faces that they were in an easy-going and good-natured mood. If you didn’t know what the police have become in the times of Putin, you could even think that they might be supporters of the picket participants. Or at least sympathizers. piket1.jpg Photo of picket on Revolution Square in Chita by Grigory Pasko Among the participants in the picket, I immediately recognized Marina Savateyeva, Oleg Kuznetsov, Igor Linnik, Tatiana Maltseva, Marina Sukhinina, and former priest Sergey Taratukhin. The picket participants arrived precisely at the designated time. They set up a table with books and cards. They unfurled their banners. Almost instantly, a young person with closely cropped hair appeared and began to bustle around them. In his hands he held a portable video camera. He used it to slowly photograph the faces of the people – and not only of the participants in the picket, but also of those who came up to it. I asked the young man who he might be? He remained as silent as a fish. Marina Savateyeva explained: this is an employee of the local administration of internal affairs; every rally participant and picketer of the city of Chita has known who he is for a long time already. piket2.jpg Photo of picket on Revolution Square in Chita by Grigory Pasko At 4 PM local time, fifteen of the picket participants unfurled two five-meter banners on Revolution Square: “The Khodorkovsky case is a shameful farce of made-to-order justice” and “Freedom for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev”. The picket participants gave out statements by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev to passers-by, along with materials about their social and educational projects. The picket continued for about two hours. The police stayed calm. This time. The last time Savvateyeva and Maltseva had come out on the square, in February, provocateurs attached themselves to them, and the picketing was aborted. Then there were court sessions at which the participants in the supposedly “illegal” picket had been acquitted. This time, the Chita authorities permitted the conducting of the picket on Revolution Square. This square is practically on the very edge of the city (sort of like Chita itself is practically on the very edge of the country). So there weren’t very many people around who felt for the picket participants and for Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It is noteworthy that the support committee participants had indicated another location – the Square Named After Lenin – in their notification on the conducting of the picket in support of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. However, city hall came back with the following reply – and I quote: “in the period from 12 to 18 o’clock on the Square Named After Lenin, the UVD [Administration of Internal Affairs—Trans.] for Chita Oblast in conjunction with the committee of professional education, science, and youth policy of the administration of Chita Oblast” will be conducting an action “For a healthy lifestyle”. So, the organizers of the picket were forced to agree with city hall’s proposal to move the conducting of the picket to Revolution Square. It’s hard to say if anyone was actually fighting “for a healthy lifestyle” on the Square Named After Lenin at this time: there are always a lot of people there. But we do know that soon after the “struggle” of the local authorities with an unhealthy lifestyle, reports appeared in the Russian mass media about how deaths by poisoning from drinking counterfeit vodka appeared to be on the rise once again in Chita. By the way, the press was already reporting several months ago about an increase in crimes committed while under the influence of alcohol in Chita Oblast. As an example, more than 90 thousand statements, reports, and other information about incidents were received by the Chita Oblast organs of internal affairs, of which more than 25 thousand were registered as crimes. ingodin.jpg Photo of the Ingodinsky Court of Chita by Grigory Pasko …Several days after the picket, it became known that the Ingodinsky District Court of Chita had extended Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s term of confinement in the local investigative isolator until 2 July of the current year. Earlier, Khodorkovsky’s and Lebedev’s lawyers had likewise protested their clients’ transfer to Chita – in the Basmanny Court of Moscow, which had refused to satisfy the complaint. Together with this, on 20 March, that same Basmanny Court ruled that the conducting of the new preliminary investigation with respect to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in Chita had been illegal, because this procedure should have been conducted at the place where the crime was committed, i.e. in Moscow. On 22 March, the Procuracy-General of Russia appealed this decision in the Moscow City Court, and it can not enter into force until the appeal has been heard. In the opinion of observers of the lengthy process of the unlawful persecution of the YUKOS managers, it is perfectly likely that the court session on the new charges addressed at Khodorkovsky and Lebedev may take place in Chita as well.