Russian Police Arrest 1,195 Activists During Pension Riots
Amid a series of street riots on September 9th, Russian security forces arrested thousands of activists in more than 15 cities. Protestors were dispersed and hundreds appeared behind bars, with 15 sustaining heavy injuries. People marched through the streets with bills reading “Putin – thief” and similar to show their disagreement with this summer’s big economic pain: new pension laws. What rioters got instead were harsh attention from law enforcement, imprisonment, and criminal charges.
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Dull but Unmerciful Response to Russian Riots
After the July football anesthesia started to subside, Russians grew aware that plans to raise pension ages from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women would not be a good thing for their wallets.
Social networks heated up one week after another. On the day of local elections, September 9th, a huge mass of people from across the country planned to go protesting. They used groups hosted on Vkontakte (VK) and other networks to coordinate the events.
As a result, more than 1195 activists, including old men, young girls and reporters, were taken away or beaten up in street ambushes allegedly created by the special forces. According to “OVD Info”, 500 people were packed into prison trucks in St. Petersburg, 180 in Ekaterinburg, and more than 100 in Krasnodar. In Moscow, there are two criminal cases already underway regarding “attacks on police officers”. Those charged – two men aged 24 and 36, were unarmed while cops had special armor, helmets and nightsticks.
In St. Petersburg, government trucks moved in with barbed wire onboard. Law enforcement commanders had stated that they ”will not be using barbed wire against people”.
A Meduza reporter asked one of the officers about the destination point of the prison trucks full of people:
“Where will you take the people in buses?” he asked.
“Are they people, you say?” was the officer’s answer.
One boy climbed up the light pillars to avoid policemen. Officers took him down and detained him briefly — however the boy reportedly ran away from the vehicle.
Are You a Journalist or What?
Rain reporter Maria Borzunova was hit in the ribs, while many live-streamers, operators and other journalists were packed in prison trucks without any document checks or conversations with lawyers. Even when soldiers knew they were arresting a journalist, they kept working.
After some accusations of violation of Russian laws, in Ekaterinburg, a spokesman from the central department of Internal Affairs, Valerii Gorelyh, said that “for police, there’s no difference between rioters and journalists”. Later, after a group of reporters filed a complaint, police general Mihail Borodin offered an apology to the press. He replied that “next time” press must wear T-shirts with large “press” lettering on them or shiny stickers (although reporters at the riots already had those).
Law Enforcement Began Interceptions Before the Riots Took Place
The protesters used social networks as a planner and communications tool, despite Vkontakte becoming famous for so-called “extremist” posts. As we reported earlier, it is a new trend in Russia’s law enforcement model to send account-holders to jail. The VK network allegedly refers them to authority-friendly cyber vigilantes for reposting political or religious satire. This way, Russian social networks are useful in tracking the people who plan to consolidate and start riots. Right before this week’s events took place, around 30 activists were arrested near their houses or via a precept.
For example, social activist in Jakutsk Anatoly Jagovitsin appeared in court on September 4th, five days before the protest began. Back then, cops had asked the judge to give the “suspect” 30 days in prison because he was breaking the law twice regarding a meeting that hadn’t even started yet. Before the judge ordered to close the case, he reportedly showed a confused grimace and asked police “whether they really understand the essence of a protocol with which they just had complied”.
Cryptocurrency Could Help Angry Civilians and Maybe Even Hungry Cops
Pension ages will still be raised despite negative public opinion, but the government in Russia received a clear message that not everyone in the country likes how officials “steal” people’s savings using a centralized governing model. Interestingly, back in June, famous Russian publicist, writer and atheist Alexander Nevzorov said that people in Russia must realize that with its new laws, government wants to steal roughly one million rubles from each citizen in the country.
If pension funds would approve cryptocurrencies as a legitimate store of value, Russians could have fewer problems with the funds’ transparency and inflation. With a decentralized software that can tag addresses and control spending, the nation could spot beforehand that a pension fund is being stolen and a corrupt regime had dumped the money intended for covering the hole. While the Russian ruble continues its four-year-long trip to its record lowest market value, bitcoin and some altcoins could possibly help fix the situation.
As an example, MediaZone cited lawyer Julia Botukh’s story about a parcel full of food that she tried to pass to the 10 people in detention. She asked a police car driver to store the parcel and he promised to deliver it to the seized crowd right after the court session ended. Instead, the officer and his friend shared the contents of the parcel themselves, leaving activists without any hope for the edibles.
“Later, we saw cops finishing the meals from that package,” Botukh wrote.
Who knows, maybe cryptocurrency-based payrolls could discourage Russian authorities from beating people to obtain some free protein, and encourage them to engage with the new technologies — or even change profession.
Will Russian people be able to virtualize their struggle for pension fund safety in the future? Let us know in the comments.
Images by Jeff Fawkes, Meduza, MediaZone