Russia: Violent Squat Eviction in St Petersburg; Three Activists Face 10 Years in Prison

preview_1360053834From Anarchist News:

On 4th February, at around 10pm local time, riot police brutally evicted a group of anarchists, community activists and local history enthusiasts who had been occupying a disused railway station, Warsaw station, in St Petersburg, Russia.

Hearing that the site would soon be demolished to make way for a multi-storey housing complex, the activists had turned one of the last warehouses attached to the historic train station into a community centre, hosting concerts, poetry readings and a photo-exhibition of the history of the station.

The neo-renaissance-style building was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, linking St Petersburg directly with Warsaw, then part of the Russian Empire. Closed as a station in 2001, it was briefly transformed into a train museum, before falling empty. Developers had submitted plans to develop the area in October, despite the fact that parts of the building are protected by conservation law. Furthermore, the city’s unique status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site means that the construction of buildings in the city centre that are out of keeping with the imperial style should be carefully monitored by the government.

In fact, the difficulties of the on-going preservation of historic buildings in St Petersburg became a focus for civic activism in 2006 when one of the country’s largest oil and gas companies, GazProm, announced plans to build a 395-metre skyscraper opposite the historic Smolny complex, once the first seat of the Bolshevik government. Demonstrations were held, a new grass-roots social movement was founded, ‘Living City’, public figures joined the campaign and, in 2010, the project was moved to a less controversial site. Protecting public space from the encroachment of capital runs deep in the veins of this city.

Warsaw Station lies on the edge of the historic city centre and its status as a site of historical and cultural significance had been labeled ‘disputed’ by the city administration. In 2007, however, this status was changed, enabling developers to submit proposals for the site. Currently the non-governmental organisation, the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture (VOOPiK) is investigating the historical value of the buildings. According to the group, 15 historic buildings have historic or cultural significance. However, many fear that the developers themselves could demolish the buildings before the examination is finished: an unexplained incidence of ‘arson’.

So, in early January, activists occupied the last surviving warehouse of the Warsaw station complex. At first its owner appeared not to mind their presence and did not switch off electricity and other amenities for more than a month. However, on the 4th February things changed: at around 4pm activists found security guards ordered by the warehouse owner were attempting to use a sledgehammer to break down the inner wall of the warehouse. A fight broke out between the activists and the guards who then called the police claiming that the activists had been threatening them. Upon the arrival of the police some activists barricaded themselves in the building while others organized a human chain around the building trying to block police access to the door. The final stand-off between squatters and police and riot police lasted more than 6 hours.

Nineteen activists were arrested, with several hospitalized for concussion. The police also sustained injuries during the eviction, with two needing medical treatment for lost teeth and a fractured skull. Sixteen squatters received fines of around €40, but the remaining three are being charged for violence against police officers, an offence which could see them jailed for up to ten years. In fact the speed with which this has been rushed to the courts speaks for the probability of the maximum sentence.

Solidarity with the arrested squatters! Please publicize their bravery as widely as possible! They urgently need funds for legal assistance: to enquire about making a donation or to help get a fundraising action together please e-mail russiaukasn@riseup.net

Finally, although it is unlikely that the penetration of Warsaw station by private capital will evoke such a huge public outcry as the GazProm project, the battle to save it has certainly put the site on the map. Videos, articles and photo reports of the eviction have flooded Russian media over the past day – both at local and national level – and, although the squat itself might be gone, the snug relationship between city capitalists and local government is once again in the spotlight. The developers will no doubt have a long, hard road in front of them. It is a crime that three individuals may have to pay such a high price for their defence of social justice.

Photo reportage of the eviction: http://lenta.ru/photo/2013/02/05/squat/#0

Squat blog (in Russian): http://spasisohrani.livejournal.com/

video (in Russian) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAcslamlh4U

source: https://avtonom.org/en/freenews/violent-squat-eviction-st-petersburg-thr…

Russia: Prisoners stage uprising against conditions

From Libcom.org:

Hundreds of prisoners at Prison Number 6 in Kopeisk, in the Urals region of Russia, have fought fierce battles with screws and security forces and launched a rooftop occupation in a protest against draconian conditions, torture, extortion, and the use of solitary confinement. Four inmates have died at the prison in recent years following beatings from staff. The protest lasted for two days before the police and army special forces managed to regain control.

The trouble started when around 250 prisoners refused to follow the prison rules and routine, demanding the immediate release of those in solitary confinement. An end to barbaric treatment and extortion were the main demands that the prisoners had. Whilst on the roof, the prisoners unfurled placards that read, “Help us”, and “We have a thousand on hunger strike”

Around 300 of the prisoner’s family and friends, as well as many former prisoners, gathered outside the jail, and staged a protest. They were shouting obscenities and throwing bottles at police and prison staff. The police made battered the protesters and made 39 arrests before the protest concluded.

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Russia: Anarcha-feminist punk band Pussy Riot found guilty, sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for “hooliganism”

From CNN:

Three members of Russian female punk rock band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison Friday after they were found guilty of hooliganism for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin in a church.

The five months they have spent in detention since their arrests in March count toward the sentence, Judge Marina Sirovaya said.

The judge said the charges against the three women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich — had been proved by witnesses and the facts.

The Pussy Riot members were charged after screaming, “Mother Mary, please drive Putin away,” in a protest act in February inside Christ Savior Cathedral, one of Moscow’s grandest houses of worship.

Punk bands perform in support of jailed rockers

Sirovaya rejected the women’s defense that they were acting from political motives, ruling that they had intended to insult the Russian Orthodox Church and undermine public order.

However, the fact that two of them have young children was a mitigating factor in the sentencing, the judge said.

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Yekaterina Samutsevich: Closing Statement at the Pussy Riot Trial

FromChtodelat News:

Yekaterina Samutsevich, defendant in the criminal case against the feminist punk group Pussy Riot:

During the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent or express regret for her deeds, or to enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to express my views about the causes of what has happened with us.

The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.
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Russia: Jailed members of anarcha-revolutionary band, “Pussy Riot” on hunger strike

From Common Dreams:

Three members of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk-rock band, began a hunger strike Wednesday after a Moscow court suddenly told them they must prepare their defense for trial by Monday.

Maria Alyokhina, Yakaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were taken into custody in March, after the group’s February performance of “Virgin Mary Put Putin Away,” an anti-Putin song, inside the Russian Orthodox Church’s main cathedral, asking the Virgin Mary to chase President Vladimir Putin out of power.

The three women were arrested over four months ago and have been held without bail on charges of criminal hooliganism — which carry a possible seven-year prison sentence. Two other female members of the band have avoided arrest thus far.

“I announce a hunger strike because it is unlawful,” said Tolokonnikova, wearing a T-shirt with the famous slogan of the Spanish Civil War, “No pasaran!” (“They shall not pass”), emblazoned across it.

“Until July 9 is not enough (time) for me. I think it is absolutely unlawful,” she said in the Tagansky district court.

“I am categorically against it and I announce a hunger strike,” Alekhina also said after the court delivered a separate ruling on her and another one on Samutsevich.

As the case generates media attention, activists all over the world are advocating for Pussy Riot’s release. Over 100 Russian cultural figures, including some known for pro-government views, have signed a letter calling for the release of the trio. “We see no legal basis or practical reason for the further isolation of these young women, who do not pose any real danger to society,” the letter said.

Video and more here
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Interview with the Moscow Anarchist Black Cross

Food Not Bombs Spotlight Interview: Moscow Anarchist Black Cross

Новость Food Not Bombs Spotlight Interview: Moscow Anarchist Black Cross
создана.

How long has Moscow ABC been in operation, and what does it do?

There were previous anti-repression groups, but first incarnation under
label of ABC-Moscow was set up in 2003 as a coordinating organ between
existing groups, but around 2005 it had degraded to state of mere
internet project. Around 2007, group was reorganised as an autonomous
entity, and has been around ever since.

Most of our activity is spreading information and solidarity calls, and
raising channeling funds in benefit of repressed anarchist anti-fascist
comrades. Occasionally we organise letter-writing and other such events.
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Anarchist Alexey Sutuga arrested and remanded in Moscow – help needed

From Avtonom:

Alexey Sutuga, anarchist, anti-fascist and the member of “Autonomous Action” was arrested on Tuesday evening, April 17, in Moscow. It happened during fundraising effort in support of anti-fascists prisoners. It became aware almost after a day after arrest that Alexey is now in the remand prison number two which is also known as “Butyrka”.

The police accuse him of the same charges as anti-fascist Alexey Olesinov who has already been in custody for a month – complicity in the incident at the Moscow club “Vozdukh”, on 17 December, 2011, when the Nazis working for the security attacked the guests of the concert and then blamed anti-fascists in this assault.

Voluntary donations for the support of anti-fascists in detention, particularly of Alexey Olesinov and Igor Kharchenko, were gathered in the center of Moscow, on April 17. The event was organized by activists of the anti-racist human rights initiative “Direct Help”. About 15 people, including Alexey Sutuga, showed up. Two police officers came up to the group at 20.30, according to witnesses. They identified themselves and asked why there were too much garbage around the bench.
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