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BBC, April 9, 2004

Grigory Yavlinsky: The ban of the First of May march is symptomatic

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Marina Gvozdevskaya

The Moscow government banned holding the First of May march where democrats consisting of YABLOKO, SPS, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers and human rights activists from the Moscow Helsinki Group had to take part.

Leader from the YABLOKO party Grigory Yavlinsky talked in an interview with correspondent of the BBC Russian Service Marina Gvozdevskaya about the possible reasons for such a decision.

BBC: Are only democrats banned from gathering on the First of May on the basis of such a formal pretext or were the communists also covered by this ban?

Yavlinsky: I know nothing here about communists. I think that communists' gatherings will not be banned as in such a situation the communists are the only ones who can participate and have always participated [in the gatherings of the First of May].

But of course it is very symptomatic that democratic organisations, civil organisations were prohibited from participating [in gatherings of May 1] by a volitional unlawful method.

BBC: Griogry Alexeevich, how serious is in your view the pretext used by the Moscow authorities? They said that you failed to indicate in your applicatoin when the action wouldl begin and end.

Yavlinsky: This is such a pretext which can not be regarded as a reason, as we could provide them all the information in any minute. This is a simple thing.

It is simply irrelevant. This is fault-finding. By the way, no single normative document indicates that we should refer to these things specially or separately.

The application was signed by me, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a number of other democratic organisations. I don't see any grounds, even formal ones, for a refusal here.

BBC: Do you think you will be really prohibited to participate or you will manage to obtain permission?

Yavlinsky: I think we shall try very hard to obtain this permission. However, I can not foresee now how this suit will end.

BBC: Do you see any trend in the actions of the Moscow authorities here or is it a one-off action?

Yavlinsky: I presume that these are not the actions of the Moscow authorities. This is a general trend in the country.

And this is connected with the fact that the action was announced as "Civil Society Against a Police State," and it was banned because it was stated in such an open and clear way.

The essence of the action is that all the civil organisations came together - YABLOKO considered it extremely important to conduct such work - all of them as a solidary protest against a police state.

BBC: How is this connected with the law adopted in the first reading [by the State Duma] last week?

Yavlinsky: This is connected with the law. The spirit of this law tell us approximately such things.

In addition, this is the general line of the domestic policy of the country. This is not the arbitrary rule of the bureaucrats at a regional level. This is a general line that is present in Russia today.

BBC: What other journalists asked you about this topic?

Yavlinsky: The BBC is the most operative. In Russia the press works somewhat slowly. This is why such calls and the discussion of this topic are likely to be raised tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

However there is no arena for discussing these topics in Russia. Television is monopolized, especially the state-owned channels that are monopolized to a great extent.

The channels that were traditionally considered democratic are now servile and have stopped being democratic. The form of ownership of these channels has changed.

The Russian press will debate the issue. However, it has no political influence.


See also:

Freedom of Assembly

BBC, April 9, 2004

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