Anti-corruption rallies were held in Stavropol and Mineralnye Vody, in Stavropol Krai, Kabardino–Balkaria’s capital, Nalchik, and the Daghestani capital of Makhachkala on 12 June. Rallies took place throughout the country to coincide with Russia Day, organised by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Eight people were arrested in Makhachkala, while journalists were attacked by a number of unidentified men.
Rallies in Stavropol and Nalchik were agreed with the local authorities. According to Caucasian Knot around 200 people gathered in Stavropol with two people arrested: one woman, a government supporter, who interfered with the rally, and a young man who insulted Putin. A similar number of people gathered peacefully in the Mineralnye Vody, without arrests.
About 20 people protested peacefully in Nalchik, also with no arrests.
Protests in Makhachkala
In Makhachkala, the city administration denied permission to hold a rally, however this was later overturned in court.
The organiser of the rally in Makhachkala, lawyer Marat Ismailov, was visited at home on the morning of 12 June by police.
‘Police officers came to my home. They forced me to the Caspian city [police] department. Allegedly, the head of the department wanted to talk’, Ismailov wrote on his Facebook.
He was released an hour later.
‘They took a note from me saying that i would not commit illegal actions’, he wrote on Facebook.
A few dozen demonstrators, journalists, and onlookers began to gather near the Kumyk Theater on Makhachkala’s Rodopsky Boulevard at around 14:00.
After journalists began to photo and video the event, several young men dressed in civilian clothing approached them, without introduction, and demanded that they halt any kind of coverage.
An argument ensued and when journalists asked the men identify themselves, where they worked, and to explain why they were prohibiting them from reporting on the event, the men refused.Another man, who later turned out to be an employee of the city administration named Surkhai, said, ‘I work at a place where you are not allowed to introduce yourself’.
One police officer attempted to take aside journalist Murad Muradov from Novoe delo. After Muradov began to challenge police on whether or not he was being arrested another policeman began to push the journalist in the back.
Meanwhile Surkhai took the phone from a journalist from Chernovik, returning it only when several male activists intervened.
A man hits our camera with a folder.
Surkhai then took the phone of another journalist from Chernovik, Saida Bagabova, knocking it to the ground.
A journalist from Caucasian Knot standing nearby filming had the screen of their camera ripped off by the man in the blue shirt.
Police from the Sovetsky Police Department stood by and did nothing throughout the confrontation, and did not answer to the journalists’ requests for assistance.
Following the incident with the camera, Surkhai was arrested. According to Chernovik, this was on the direct orders of Deputy Head of the Makhachkala Department of Internal Affairs, Shamil Omarov. It is unknown what happened to the man who broke the camera, but he is not known to have been arrested.
Police say they are now probing the attacks, after journalists submitted a written appeal.
Police began to work as soon as one of the activists, Bagomed Bagomedov, unfolded the red and black flag of anarcho-communism. Bagomedov began his speech by telling participants that the flag was the ‘anti-corruption flag’. As soon as he began talking about the history of the flag Omarov approached him and had him arrested.
Olga Tochenaya, who was arrested while speaking at a previous anti-corruption rally on 26 March, was arrested again after only a few minutes when she unfolded a poster which read — ‘you steal our money, then you’re talking nonsense about compote’. Omarov grabbed her poster almost immediately.
Tochenaya argued that ‘the court ruled that we have the right to conduct the rally’. Police responded by arresting her, as the crowd applauded her.
Following the arrests, a number of young people who were afraid to be arrested unfolded their posters out of sight of police, posing for photos from journalists before quickly hiding them again.
Some activists attached stickers to the police bus.
Several young people gathered to support the rally, and engaged in political discussions about the future of Russia.
‘I would like that the President of the country was Putin, while Navalny is Prime Minister. Navalny would be responsible for everything happening inside the country, while Vladimir Vladimirovich for foreign policy’, one of them said.
‘But apparently we are losing in foreign affairs. He took the Crimea, and the whole world has turned against us with these sanctions’, another man replied.
‘He steals money’, another said.
‘Who doesn’t?’ the first man asks.
‘I came to make sure that Makhachkala didn’t degrade completely. I don’t like this entire system, which is thoroughly rooted in the past. And after all, I don’t want USSR to be back’, Tagir, 18 told OC Media.
What happened with the detainees
A total of eight people were arrested — four before the attempt to conduct the rally even began; one of the detainees is a minor, who was released later that evening.
According to Chernovik charges were drawn up against Bagomedov and Surkhai for administrative violations. Surkhai, who attacked journalists and tried to break their equipment, was released after paying the fine. Bagomed, who was telling a story about a flag, was held overnight.
The rest were charged for disobeying police.
‘It is interesting that they did not hang “participation in an unsanctioned rally” on us. We overheard one of the policeman, possibly one of the leaders, saying — “don’t write them up for the rally. Charge them with hooliganism” ’, Tochenya told OC Media on being released.
On 13 June Sovetsky District Court found all five guilty fining them ₽500 ($8) each.