The Russian police stormed this Saturday (13) the “United Democrats” forum, an event organized by opposition parties in Moscow. All participants were arrested, including several well-known personalities, according to the organizer of the meeting.
The organization of the event released a video showing opponents of Vladimir Putin’s regime being taken away in police cars. The 150 participants come from different parts of the country and were staying in a hotel in northern Moscow. The objective of the forum was to debate the regional elections scheduled for September.
“Forty minutes after the forum started, the police arrived in the room. All the deputies were arrested and taken to the police stations,” opponent Ilya Yashin said on Facebook, attaching a photo of him to his post. – even in a police van.
In a statement, Moscow police said they had arrested around 200 people. As justification, he said that the forum was organized “in violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules” and that there were also “members of organizations engaged in undesirable activities on Russian territory”.
Images released by the Russian press show dozens of police vans parked in the snow outside the hotel, while a video released by local MP Sergei Vlassov showed a policeman saying the act was “unwanted”.
Several journalists covering the meeting were also arrested.
“Police said the event was organized by a non-grata organization,” Open Russia, an opposition collective, told Interfax news agency.
A law promulgated in 2015 by President Vladimir Putin allows foreign organizations active in Russia to be designated as “undesirable”. The law is not limited to political organizations, it can regulate and ban NGOs, foundations and companies.
This police operation, unprecedented in Russia, takes place against a backdrop of strong hardening of the government against the opposition, in particular with the conviction in February of the main opponent of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny.
“The reason for the cancellation of the forum is clear: the authorities are afraid of any competition in the elections and intimidate their opponents,” said Navalny’s team, currently in prison. “The approval of United Russia [partido governante] is at its lowest point and winning elections, even fraudulently, becomes more difficult. “
Navalny was arrested in January on his return to Russia after several months in Germany, where he was recovering from poisoning for which he blames the Russian authorities. The opponent was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and his detention sparked major protests, to which the authorities responded with more than 11,000 arrests.