“I Do Not Want To Participate In This Charade”

May 14, 2018

Prominent Russian journalist Maxim Shevchenko announced on May 10 that he will be disassociating himself from Russia’s Human Rights Council after his calls to openly discuss and investigate attacks carried out against protestors during a 5 May protest in Moscow were ignored.

The protest in question was organized to voice opposition to the Putin regime on May 5, and carried the slogan “He’s Not Our Tsar”.  Soon after the demonstrations began, violence erupted between the protesters and a separate group dressed in Cossack military uniforms. It was reported that those in Cossack uniforms severely beat protestors and at points even brandished whips against them. Members of the Moscow police force who were present on Pushkin Square at the time of the protest witnessed the violence but did nothing to intervene or protect the protestors.

Speaking on air to the radio station “Echo Moscow,” Shevchenko explained why this incident and the reaction (or lack thereof) surrounding it had convinced him to retire from the cause of developing civil society under President Putin:

“[The Human Rights Council] has tried to do a lot of important things but, in fact, nothing has been done at all … the beating of Muscovites by some reactionaries in central Moscow and Peskov’s assertion that the Kremlin did not receive any appeals [to investigate and discuss the matter] indicate that this is an open and deliberate sabotage. I do not wish to participate in this charade.”

Many members of the HRC, he said, supported his proposal to have an open and in-depth discussion of the incident but, despite this, everything was still “reduced to a closed exchange of documents.” He believes that the bureaucracy overseeing the work of the HRC is in fact not invested in the work which the Council does and has no interest or initiative to help with or complete any assignments given it by the Council.

During a television appearance on the RTVI channel on May 7, Shevchenko gave further details about government officials’ reluctance to cooperate with the HRC, saying that he had called an emergency meeting of the Council following the incident and requested that the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, be present in order to fully understand the reasoning and scope of what had happened. “We need to understand what kind of people are armed with whips … Muscovites have been beaten in the center of Moscow,” he said.  However, he was told by the chairman of the Council, Mikhail Fedotov, that the topic could only be discussed at a closed and confidential meeting of the presidium.

Additionally, the head of the Department of Regional Security and Anti-Corruption, Vladimir Chernikov, shrugged off the presence and actions of the “Cossacks” during the protest in a statement to RBC, and instead seemed to find more fault with the demonstrators themselves: “My opinion as the head of the Regional Security Department [is that] no one should be present at any illegal event. No one should violate the law, come to Tverskaya Street, and prevent citizens and tourists from resting and enjoying free time,” he said.

On top of the violence suffered by the protestors, over 1600 people were detained across Russia that day as a result of participation in the demonstrations again Vladimir Putin’s fourth official inauguration as president.

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