Opposing opposition, or divorce without marriage

Moscow Helsinki Group chair Lyudmila Alekseeva has announced she is not going to organize a traditional opposition rally together with her long-time ally, Eduard Limonov, leader of Another Russia coalition.

According to Alekseeva, the explanation is quite simple: they now differ in opinions and that is enough to refrain from holding joint action.

“Thankfully, we have never been married. So the word ‘divorce’ is not relevant here,” 83-year-old Alekseeva added. “At some point we discovered that our goals and points of view on the Strategy-31 movement have become different.”

For some time, human rights activist Alekseeva and oppositional politician Limonov were united by a common idea: supporting freedom of assembly as guaranteed by Article 31 of Russia’s Constitution.Since July 2009, at the end of each month that has 31 days, their Strategy-31 movement has been trying to stage a rally on Triumfalnya Square in the center of the capital.

However, every time, the organizers failed to get official permission for the gathering exactly at the place they wanted, and meetings were traditionally followed by clashes with police and the arrest of protesters.

After Sergey Sobyanin replaced the long-time Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the capital’s authorities softened their stance on the opposition march.However, instead of celebrating their small but still important triumph, the “Strategy-31” leaders have since been at loggerheads.

The mayoral office allowed protesters to have their gathering, though reduced the number they initially asked for from 1,500 to 800.Alekseeva agreed to the conditions set by the officials, but her recent ally Limonov called her compromise with authorities “dishonest”. He said not allowing 700 protesters to have their say was nothing but “discrimination”.The opposition leader was particularly angry over the fact that she decided the fate of the meeting without agreeing it with partners. He vowed to hold his own meeting on Triumfalnya Square.

“It is not a divorce with people but a divorce with Lyudmila [Alekseeva],” he said to Interfax news agency back then.

As a result, the October 31 demonstration yet again turned into a farce. Peaceful protesters gathered on Triumfalnya Square within the area carefully guarded by police. Limonov appeared outside the barriers with a bunch of bodyguards and a megaphone.The opposition leader called for an “Alekseeva mutiny” and for her supporters to leave the sanctioned meeting and join him instead.

His rhetoric though appeared not to be convincing enough and after a fleeting clash with police, the devoted revolutionary was literally forced to join the others. Held by his arms and legs, police carried Limonov to the side of the square where chanting was allowed.The incident rather offended the opposition leader and, Strategy-31 website reports, he has sent an appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office demanding that a criminal case is opened against the officers.

It is still over a month until the next traditional meeting in support of Article 31 in December, on New Year eve, but there are very few chances for any reconciliation of the former allies.

Alekseeva stated that this time she is not going to file an appeal to the authorities to get permission to stage a rally.

She says that she does acknowledge that the idea of holding such demonstrations belongs to Limonov. “I am even thankful to him for having invited me to join the movement. It is an important deed of my life,” she told Interfax on November 25.However, now the Helsinki Group chairwoman intends to act in her own way – not by grabbing the “Strategy-31” brand from Limonov.

“He may develop the movement the way he wants, in opposition with the power. I am going to develop this movement, assuring that our citizens have their right to hold peaceful meetings and demonstrations all over the country,” she stated.

Limonov, for his part, announced that regardless of whether Alekseeva will take part in organizing the next meeting or not, the demonstration will be held. “[Alekseeva] does not want to inform authorities on the meeting. But we still will and people will come,” he assured.

In her blog on LiveJournal, the human rights activist explained her decision not to stay with the movement.

“They cannot tell everyone almost every day that I am destroying and have almost destroyed Strategy-31 on the one hand, and on the other – suggest that we act together within the movement. If I’m such a baddie, why would they need me?” she wrote on Wednesday.

While it is not a pleasure to be criticized that way, she went on, “I could still resist”. But the problem is not only the criticism.

In a fit of anger over the October meeting, Limonov confessed to “despising meetings, which have been permitted by authorities,” Alekseeva said.

She noted that had she been aware of that from the very beginning, she would never have filed a joint appeal with Limonov.

In July this year, Eduard Limonov, a writer as well as being a controversial opposition leader, set up a new political party – the Other Russia – mostly comprised of representatives of nonconformist youths. The party is yet to be officially registered by the Ministry of Justice though.

The politician is also planning to take part in the presidential election in 2012. Among the plans listed in his presidential program is moving the capital to Siberia, annexing South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdniester to the territory of Russia, giving “complete” freedom to the media and limiting large financial capitals.

­Natalia Makarova, RT