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07MOSCOW2872 2007-06-15 10:52:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Moscow
Cable title:  

A CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT'S TACTICS TOWARD OTHER

Tags:   PGOV KDEM PHUM SOCI RS 
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1. (SBU) The conduct of the June 9 St. Petersburg and the
June 11 Moscow Other Russia (OR) demonstrations suggests that
the authorities have decided to experiment with a somewhat
more tolerant approaqch to a movement they have attempted to
repress with a heavy hand on the assumption that, if left to
its own devices, OR will fail to win a significant public
following. Both events were licensed by the authorities and
saw a less intimidating police presence than at preceding OR
marches. About 350 demonstrators attended the June 11 Moscow
event; many fewer than predicted by OR's leadership. Mayor
Luzhkov and Prime Minister Fradkov told the Ambassador they
were pleased by the conduct of the marches. The expected
kick-start of the campaign season and resumption of OR
marches in September, however, will be the real test of the
GOR's newfound restraint. End summary.



--------------------------


Few Attend Moscow Demo


--------------------------





2. (SBU) The June 11 "March of Dissent," like its June 9 St.
Petersburg counterpart, took place with minimal police
presence, with the permission of the city authorities, and on
a central city square. No more than 350 protesters attended
the Other Russia (OR)-sponsored event. (Wire service reports
of up to two thousand protesters accurately captured
Kasparov's hyperbole, but were wrong. The gathering was held
at a fenced park, where it was easy to count the small number
who attended.) The protesters were addressed by outlawed
National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov, United Civic
Front head Garry Kasparov, Vanguard of Red Youth leader
Sergey Udaltsov, Popular Democratic Union Presidium member
Ivan Starikov, and others. Udaltsov elicited some enthusiasm
from the otherwise subdued crowd when he announced that the
police had passed their regards to March participants after
acknowledging that they had mistakenly detained him on the
morning of the meeting.



--------------------------


OR Organizers Elated at
Apparent Government Change
of Course


--------------------------





3. (SBU) At a June 10 meeting, an elated Kasparov and Limonov
told us they believed that the conduct of the June 9 OR march
in St. Petersburg meant the GOR had turned a corner in its
treatment of their movement. Both were pleased that OR
demonstrators were permitted to peacefully assemble and march
the streets of the northern capital. Particularly
encouraging, they said, was the deportment of the police.
The special forces troops had stayed in the background and
had shed their intimidating visored helmets, bullet-proof
vests, and shinguards. Police presence (at both venues) was
reduced and the atmosphere at the Moscow event was quite
relaxed. Kasparov and Limonov noted as well the change in
the tenor of their conversations with Ministry of Internal
Affairs officials. The exchanges had become more
constructive, less adversarial, they both said. They
portrayed the apparent change of heart to a realization by
GOR officials that continued confrontation only generated bad
publicity, both in Russia and abroad. Kasparov noted that
advertising OR events remained problematic, however. A
special edition St. Petersburg newspaper had been confiscated
by the authorities before it could be distributed, and Moscow
area publishing houses had refused to print OR's meeting
materials.



4. (SBU) The June 13 Moscow press largely agreed, in the
words of the national daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets, that
after "nine scandalous demonstrations," the authorities
understood that "it is better to license them, or the
consequences will be even greater." The national daily
Kommersant quoted Public Chamber member and Executive
Director of the Russian Foundation for Free Elections Andrey
Przhezdomskiy as saying that "reason has finally triumphed
over conflict."



--------------------------


Luzhkov, Fradkov Pleased


--------------------------





5. (SBU) In a brief June 12 conversation, Moscow Mayor
Luzhkov told the Ambassador he was satisfied with how the OR

MOSCOW 00002872 002 OF 002


demonstration went; especially that conflict and other
incidents had been avoided. Luzhkov suggested that the
city's new tolerance was the result of a conscious GOR
decision to change tack. In a separate conversation on the
margins of the weekend St. Petersburg Economic Forum, a
visibly pleased Prime Minister Fradkov noted that "even the
demonstrators were in good form" at the concurrently staged
OR event.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Events in the fall, when Other Russia hopes to
resume its street protests and the pressure of the impending
elections will make the authorities nervous, will show how
permanent the triumph of reason is. The insignificant
turnout in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the apparent lack
of a clear-cut OR strategy may help persuade the authorities
that it is easier to let the protests run their course than
to attempt to muscle them out of existence.
BURNS