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Grigory Pasko: With the Samara Police

Samara Policeman Sysuyev: “I’m not going to beat the demonstrators…” By Grigory Pasko, journalist On the eve of the march of those who disagree, the Samara police held a dress rehearsal of how they intended to cordon off the potential demonstrators in the area of Fountain Square and the ridiculous monument to some kind of longboat [the kind pulled by the “Volga boatmen” of historical fame—Trans.] that looks more like an ordinary slab of concrete. I was at this dress rehearsal. From 6 to 10 PM, a good hundred policemen (the ones I could see, at any rate) stood around at various ends of the square and the monument (as well as in nearby houses, streets, small squares, and the river embankment) with only one purpose – to demonstrate their readiness to carry out the assigned task to the chief of the UVD of Samara Oblast [the Oblast police chief—Trans.], major general of the police Alexander Reimer. Reimer finally showed up at around 9 at night: with a gigantic belly and a huge retinue of colonels and personal security guards fluttering around him. They proceeded to the square before the cement boat and proceeded to observe the gorgeous sunset over the Volga. Then they proceeded to discuss something – no doubt the opposition march scheduled for the 18th, which the authorities (in the person of Reimer himself, actually) had permitted to take place – after some very strong hints from the European Union and even personally from Bundeskanzler Angela Merkel. Why the Samara police had literally paralyzed traffic in the city and denied residents the opportunity to relax on the waterfront on a warm May evening was completely beyond comprehension. After all, the march wasn’t scheduled to take place for another day. For some reason, I was reminded of the words of the general, which he pronounced soon after being appointed to the post of chief of the UVD: “The activities of the police must be open and comprehensible to citizens”.

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Photo of Samara policemen undergoing vital training in crowd control by Grigory Pasko

Comprehensible to the citizens?! The activities of the police weren’t comprehensible even to the police themselves! A friend of mine, an officer with the city administration of internal affairs [UVD] of Samara, was sending me text messages from his cellular telephone all this time. Here’s what he wrote: 18:15 I’m at the longboat 18:46 Still hanging out at the boat. What the **** are we waiting for? 18:58 Still no all-clear command… 19:33 Meet me on the little square (we finally had ourselves a beer there—author’s note) 20:28 “He” is on his way

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Photo of General Reimer and his entourage by Grigory Pasko

“He” and his entourage left shortly after 10 at night. And the next morning – the day of the “march of those who disagree” – the entire city was ensnared in police checkpoints. There was a police roadblock beside the fountain on Osipenko Street prohibiting cars from turning onto the street. After the march, my pal sent me another text message: “18:23 Everything is essentially over, but they’re still not letting us leave”. In a while, he sent me a reply to a question I had asked him: “What face-smashing? An ordinary drunken party is more exciting than this was”.

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Photo of the “opposition to the opposition” by Grigory Pasko. Samara pensioners counter-demonstrating against the March of Those Who Disagree. The slogans read “Don’t dare offend our victory”! [a strangely irrelevant reference to the Soviet victory over the germano-fascists in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) that had been celebrated several days earlier] “March against Russia, not needed by Russia! and “We are for friendship with Europe against those who disagree”. The posters look suspiciously professional in quality, except for the punctuation.

And so, in the words of senior lieutenant of the police Vadim Sysuyev, the march of those who disagree lasted exactly 23 minutes. Then there was a short rally at the longboat. Short, because “The Other Russia” leaders Eduard Limonov and Garry Kasparov had been detained in Moscow and denied the opportunity to fly to Samara. And all this despite the words of president Putin about how the marches of those who disagree do not bother him. Twisting words, as always… The marches DO bother him. And not only the marches. He and his accomplices in crime are bothered by everything that doesn’t fit neatly into their understanding of “impure democracy”. … After the training session on blocking those who disagree, Vadim and I decided to finish off the wasted evening with some of the local «Zhigulevsky» beer. I asked my friend the senior lieutenant if he was going to beat the demonstrators on the day of the march. “No, I won’t”, he replied. “Because they have every right to demonstrate and to freedom of expression”. “And if they order you to?”, I insisted, recalling the beatings of people during the time of marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “I still won’t”, said Vadim.

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Photo of senior lieutenant of the Samara police Sysuyev, who does not want to beat Russians just because they disagree with something, by Grigory Pasko

… The march in Samara, as is known, took place without any excesses. But this does not mean that they won’t start beating people during the upcoming marches on 8 June in St. Petersburg and 11 June in Moscow. Because Putin’s power still does fear these marches and is bothered by them. And no doubt the power is beginning to suspect that not all policemen are prepared to beat their own people the moment they’re ordered to do so.