Moscow legislature approves creation of ‘Hyde Parks’ for rallies and protests

Participants of the For Fair Elections rally on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.(RIA Novosti / Artem Zhitenev)
Moscow authorities have approved the creation of dedicated zones for political events in two recreation parks not far from the city center.

Political events or, as the official formula puts it, “

collective discussion of socially important issues

” will not require a license from authorities if held in these zones, already dubbed ‘Hyde Parks’ by the public and media. They will, however, require a registration on a special web-site at least three days in advance. The authorities promised to open the web-portal for registration in late January.

Currently, the only type of street politics that can be held without warning and getting permission is a single-person picket. A picket is recognized as a single person as long as there are no other protesters within a 50-meter radius. The events in the ‘Hyde Parks’ can gather any number of participants, but physically the suggested venues can host up to 2000 people.

The city administration agreed the fixed places for rallies will be located in two of Moscow’s recreation parks – the Gorky Park in the central southwest and the Sokolniki in the southeast.Representatives of the opposition, however, disagreed with the choice saying that the parks are far from the city center and the dedicated places are too small for mass rallies.

Moscow faced a wave of rallies a year ago when thousands took to the streets protesting against alleged violations at parliamentary elections in December. The biggest protests were not backed by any political party, but rather by a group of activists united only by their discontent with the authorities.

Later these activists announced they were creating the Coordination Council of the Opposition – a joint body that will be planning further policy and hold official talks with the authorities. In October these activists held elections to the Council in which about 81,000 Russians took part.

In early May one of the marches ended in violence as some of the protesters started attacking police and causing general disruption. The rioters were detained and several months later three young politicians were charged with organizing public unrest. Two of them are currently in custody and one has a travel ban as the probe continues.