Cablegate: Gor Limits Nationalist Rallies On Russian Day Of

Published: Thu 6 Nov 2008 06:31 PM
DE RUEHMO #3254/01 3111831
R 061831Z NOV 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. 07 MOSCOW 5285
1. (SBU) Summary. Approximately 2,000 nationalist activists
gathered in different parts of Moscow for the "Russian
March," a rally organized by established nationalist groups,
on Russia's Day of People's Unity. The holiday, held since
2005 on November 4 as a replacement for events remembering
the October 1917 Revolution, had been associated in past
years with nationalist marches throughout the country, the
largest being in Moscow. The ultranationalist Movement
Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) staged an unofficial rally
in central Moscow after city authorities denied it
permission, reportedly resulting in the arrest of 500
participants for illegal demonstration with no reports of
injuries, according to the press. Another group, the
People's Union, organized a sparsely attended, but officially
sanctioned meeting on a scenic Moscow riverside thoroughfare.
Fewer nationalists demonstrated than were originally
predicted, with media outlets and police officers almost
outnumbering the marchers. Low attendance at the rallies can
be attributed to a few factors: lower government tolerance
for organized displays of nationalism, disagreements between
the leadership of different nationalist groups, low public
interest in protests, and dipping temperatures.
Nationalists Protested, Apprehended in Moscow
2. (SBU) Between 1,000 to 2,000 nationalist protesters,
organized through internet maps and statements on the DPNI
website, gathered after 1000 in the morning on November 4
near the "Arbatskaya" subway station in central Moscow for
the Russian March. Notorious DPNI leader Alexander Belov
headed the procession. Police detained approximately 500
predominantly young participants, many wearing surgical
masks, from DPNI, Slavic Union, Russian Public Movement, the
movement "People," and the "Memory" foundation during the
banned demonstration. Detained participants were charged
with violating regulations against holding rallies since they
had not received a government permit for the demonstration.
Just before 1100 in the morning, approximately 300-400
activists of various nationalist organizations paraded for
half an hour down Moscow's famous Old Arbat before being
surrounded by Special Purpose Police Detachment (OMON) forces
and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) officers contained
them. Some of the participants shouted "Forward Russians!"
and "Moscow For Muscovites" and made Nazi salutes as they
marched along the relatively empty pedestrian street.
Several protesters tried to break through an OMON police
cordon at the end of the street, and were detained. While
some activists became aggressive, eliciting a mildly violent
response from OMON guards using batons, there were no reports
of injuries. Slavic Union leader Dmitriy Demushkin claimed
that police beat detainees, and threatened to file a lawsuit.
Human rights observers visited the detention centers in the
afternoon and reported no signs of mistreatment or abuse.
3. (SBU) Intense media coverage and overwhelming police
presence overshadowed the actual nationalist demonstrations.
All of Russia's major television and radio programs deployed
camera crews and reporters to the Arbat area, at times
blocking adjoining streets to traffic as they searched for
the best shot of approaching marchers. The overbearing
police presence snuffed out most spontaneous nationalist
flares along the Arbat, including some relatively quiet youth
waving tsarist-era flags and chanting, "Russia for Russians!"
Numerous locations in central Moscow were closed off by
police to the public, including Red Square and some major
subway entrances near the Arbat. Police quickly apprehended
protesters who lit smoke bombs and tossed smudge pots into
main pedestrian walkways. While we witnessed that police
officers did not hesitate to act against protesters, on
occasion with batons, on the whole they behaved in a civil
manner. Detainees, surrounded by television crews and
photographers, were led gingerly by police officers to
temporary buses along the highly-trafficked adjacent New
Arbat until armored OMON vehicles arrived to transport them
to detention facilities. Red Square was closed to the public
for most of the day and Kremlin tours were suspended mid-day
(despite long lines waiting for entrance) to allow police to
keep demonstrators far away from the Kremlin.
Protests in Regions Mostly Peaceful
4. (SBU) Russian Marches outside of Moscow were held without
incident. The Vladivostok city authorities banned marches
planned by ultranationalist groups, but allowed rallies by
"activists of national patriotic public movements."
Activists waved imperial banners, displayed logos, and
shouted slogans, including "a Russian master for the Russian
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land." The sanctioned Russian March in Novosibirsk drew 200
supporters carrying yellow, black, and white banners (DPNI
colors) who clashed with some 25 anti-fascist protesters.
After isolated skirmishes, the groups dispersed and no
arrests were reported. In Krasnoyarsk, approximately 300
people attended a Russian March, while in Chita only 50
participants showed up. The St. Petersburg-based "Slav
Union" organized a 100-person, city-approved rally through
city streets without incident. St. Petersburg police
reported only 45 arrests throughout the day's activities,
mostly for hooliganism and traffic violations.
Russians Largely Not Interested in Protests?
5. (SBU) Despite the attention paid to nationalist protests
in Russia, most Russians are disinclined to protest in
general, according to research from the Levada Center.
Researchers attributed the lack of enthusiasm to protest to
financial stability: only 8 percent of Russians claimed to
feel the impact of the financial crisis personally, and 55
percent of those surveyed believed the country was "heading
in the right direction." Several groups made strong
statements in opposition to the actions of nationalist
protesters. The Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus demanded
that authorities bring charges against DPNI for distributing
leaflets with hate messages urging Russians to kill "persons
of Caucasus nationality." Additionally, the Naberezhny
Chelny part of the All-Tatar Public Center called on the
Kremlin to highlight the negative behavior of nationalists,
protesting on a holiday meant to celebrate national unity,
through television programs.
Pro-Government Religious Leaders Welcome Holiday
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6. (SBU) Religious groups also welcomed the holiday.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksey II appealed to Russians to
observe the Day of People's Unity as a day to "unite citizens
regardless of their nationality." Deputy Chairman of the
Russian Council of Muftis Damir Gizatullin announced to the
press that "modern Russia prospers thanks to the unity of
nationalities and religions." Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar
announced that "relations between peoples and religions are
very difficult in the modern world, so we must try to find
solutions, seek mutual understanding and unity."
Nationalist Violence Away from Public Eye
7. (SBU) Despite the relatively peaceful nationalist
protests in central Moscow, nationalists continued to wage
lethal battles with immigrants from Central Asia and the
Caucasus in Moscow's poorer suburbs. A report on November 4
reported that a group of young Moscow skinheads carried out
attacks on two Uzbek street sweepers, killing one with
multiple stab wounds and inflicting wounds requiring
hospitalization of the other. The skinheads, who shouted
nationalist slogans during the attack according to
eyewitnesses, were rumored by locals to be avenging the
October rape and murder of a 15-year old Russian girl,
supposedly attacked by an Uzbek man. Ekho Moskvy also
reported that seventeen people were arrested after a large
fight broke out in Solnechnogorsk, a distant Moscow suburb,
over ethnic tensions. Police confiscated stun guns, knives,
and bats from Russian youths and combatants "from the
Caucasus." Youths also attacked a Turkmen diplomat around
midday outside of the Turkmenistan consulate in central
Moscow. These violent incidents represent part of a larger
trend, according to the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights, in
that hate crimes in Russia in the first ten months of 2008
increased by 50 percent over that of 2007. Almost half of
the crimes occurred in Moscow.
8 (SBU) Although Russian authorities demonstrated force
against center-stage Moscow protests in front of the cameras
racial violence continues to rage throughout the Russian
suburbs and countryside, providing a vent for nationalist
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