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Opposition Claims Rally Led by Civil Servants

Published: March 26, 2014 (Issue # 1803)



  • Official figures put the number of demonstrators at the pro-annexation rally on Konyushennaya Ploshchad at 35,000.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

Opposition and human rights activists have stated that municipal deputies and employees of state-owned enterprises were instructed to attend or send a number of people to a rally in support of the annexation of Crimea held in the city last week.

The rally was part of a national campaign of rallies that were reportedly held in every major Russian city on Mar. 18, hours after a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he announced the annexation of Crimea.

Alexander Shurshev, a municipal council deputy of the Yekateringofsky municipal district and a member of the Civil Platform party, posted on Mar. 17 a letter that he said had been sent by the Admiralteisky District Administration to local municipalities.

The letter stated that a “city meeting” would be held on Konyushennaya Ploshchad at 5:30 p.m. on Mar. 18 and instructed the heads of municipal units located within Admiralteisky District to “organize the participation at the event of deputies of the municipal council and members of the local administration numbering 15 people.”

The letter went on to state that information about the participants should be sent to a district administration email address before Mar. 18. The letter did not specify the purpose of the rally.

“If such an order was sent to every municipality, that makes 2,000 people — not counting all of the state-funded institutions,” Shurshev wrote.

The letter appeared to be an authentic official document and bore the name of Diana Chapurina, the deputy head of the district administration, as the sender, but lacked a signature.

Speaking to The St. Petersburg Times on Monday, Shurshev said that such instructions are usually sent without a signature deliberately, so that the sender could later deny his or her involvement. Compelling people to take part in a rally is a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison if committed by an official using his or her position, according to Article 149 of the Criminal Code.

“It has been well known for long time that the authorities bring administrative personnel and the employees of state-owned enterprises to these kind of rallies, but this is the first time that I received such a letter,” Shurshev said.

According to Shurshev, the Admiralteisky District Administration reacted to the posting via its official Twitter account five days later, dismissing it as a “forgery.”

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