// Kasparov’s United Civil Front Headquarters Searched
Yesterday commandos from the anti-terrorism unit of the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry searched the Moscow headquarters of Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front party. The police, claiming that they were trying to head off any trouble that might arise during next Saturday’s “March of Dissent,” scoured the office for literature that could be construed as encouraging extremism. In return, Mr. Kasparov accused the ministry of “repression” and “intimidation.”
At around 3 PM today, 15 commandos from the Internal Affairs Ministry’s anti-terrorism unit stormed into the Moscow headquarters of Garry Kasparov’s political party, the United Civil Front (OGF), and presented a warrant authorizing them to search the premises. The warrant stated that the unit had received a tip that the office contained literature that activists from the National Bolshevik Party and the “Red Youth Avant-Garde” plan to distribute at the “March of Dissent” on December 16. The premises were searched for information “about the possible dissemination of literature that contains public incitements to extremist acts.” OGF managing director Denis Bilunov told Kommersant that the police removed some books and newspapers from the office, including the books “Nord-Ost: The Unfinished Investigation,” “Beslan Against the Hostages,” and “The Putin Regime: Ideas and Practice,” as well as OGF newspapers, stickers, and agitprop materials for the “March of Dissent.”
The “March of Dissent,” which is scheduled for December 16, is the brainchild of the opposition collective “A Different Russia.” The list of those who plan to attend includes former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, the head of the People’s Democratic Union; Garry Kasparov, the leader of the United Civil Front; State Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov; and Eduard Limonov, whose National Bolshevik Party is no longer recognized as a legally registered political party in Russia. The decision to hold a march from Triumfalnaya Square to the Moscow River embankment behind St. Basil’s Cathedral was made public on December 1. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov banned the march, though he suggested that the activists meet – and stay – on Bolotnoi Square instead. Mr. Luzhkov’s press secretary Sergey Tsoi has promised to hold the organizers criminally responsible for inciting mass unrest.
“I think that the whole hoo-hah is because of a special edition of our newspaper,” Mr. Bilunov told Kommersant. The special edition claimed that “today a regime of occupation is ruling Russia.” “Come to the ‘March of Dissent’. Now we’re going to be the ones making the choices,” trumpeted the paper.
“There was no search. There was only a precautionary inspection of the premises,” said the Interior Ministry’s press secretary. “The difference between these two events is substantial: an inspection of the premises goes quickly – it doesn’t last for more than two hours. Moreover, almost nothing is seized.” According to the ministry spokesman, experts will now have to decide whether the confiscated books and newspapers contain extremist provocations and whether their authors are guilty of sowing interethnic discord. The police explained their actions by saying that “our main task is to forestall excesses during street demonstrations.”
Nevertheless, Garry Kasparov is convinced that his office was indeed subjected to a full-scale search, and today he intends to “bring a lawsuit against the illegal actions of the law enforcement organs.” “Without a doubt, such actions are an attempt by the authorities to apply the law against extremism…to those who do not belong to Putin’s ruling party,” said Mr. Kasparov. “Now the authorities and the president understand that the opposition has finally united, and thus they are using their full repressive mechanism of intimidation.” National Bolshevik Party (NBP) leader Eduard Limonov agrees with Mr. Kasparov: he is sure that the police were motivated by the desire to keep the march from happening “at any cost.” “They want to frighten [us]. The NBP is already cowed, so they have decided to start with people who haven’t experienced that fear yet,” he said.
The members of “A Different Russia” intend to go forward with the March of Dissent and have refused the government’s suggestion that they meet elsewhere and refrain from marching through the city. According to the OGF’s leader, “the authorities in the capital, in prohibiting the march, are breaking a federal law that forbids the authorities from arbitrarily changing the format of an event,” said Mr. Kasparov. “We are prepared to discuss the length and route of the march, but we submitted documents regarding a march and we have the right to hold it…we need to act as the constitution obliges us to.”
Ekaterina Savina and Andrei Salnikov, kommersant.com