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Pushed around on Triumph Square
Written by Игорь Крючков   
Среда, 01 Сентябрь 2010

Pushed around on Triumph Square, members of the European Parliament prepare their report

The experience MEPs received on Triumph Square during a demonstration in support of constitutional Article 31 will provide the basis for an adjustment in EU policy towards Russia. As explained in GZT.RU, the EU delegation that visited the demonstration received many impressions, and is currently discussing what form their report to the EU Parliament, on what they witnessed, will take.

On September 1st, Thiys Berman, representative of the European Parliament's human rights subcommittee, shared with GZT.RU his impressions of the Triumph Square demonstration in Moscow, which had been organized by the opposition the day before. A member of the Dutch Socialist Party, who together with his colleagues was in the center of the events, told about the force brought to bear by the Russian police.

Without Billy clubs, but aggressively

«On August 31st we were with demonstrators on Triumph Square. First of all, I do not understand what the Russian authorities are afraid of. About 400 opposition members had gathered in the square, and they put many hundreds of policemen up against them, there were many more of them,» the source told GZT.RU from Beslan, to where the European delegates had traveled on September 1st.

Berman, in contrast with many from the Russian opposition, did not consider the police actions especially harsh. «Yes, although they aggressively pressed the crowd, we were repeatedly pushed around by their riot shields, I would not call this cruelty — the police did not use their nightsticks, they did not hit anyone,» said the European politician. "Although, of course, I would not call their actions appropriate to the given situation.

«The last time I was in Moscow it was in 2006, after journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered,» said Berman. «Considering the evolution of relations between the authorities and the opposition in Russia, I can state that the regime in this country has become more authoritarian. I wonder why they cannot allow the opposition to express its views, and why they have to quash all such demonstrations. In my opinion, the problem of relations with the opposition in Russia is much more fundamental than the issue of Moscow's traffic jams, to which the Russian leadership attaches such importance.»

The subcommittee is discouraged

The head of the European Parliament delegation, Heidi Hautala, who is also in charge of the human rights subcommittee, expressed similar views. In an interview with the European edition of EUobserver, she said: «It is always discouraging to see the leadership of a country, one which wishes to be considered a strong figure in the world, that cannot endure even a small number of dissenting voices.»

According to Berman, the European delegation is already reflecting on what form the report on its Russian visit will take. «Our delegation will certainly present its observations to the European Parliament,» said the politician. «While I cannot say whether it will be in the form of a document or a report, the European Parliament will adjust its policy toward Russia based on it.»

Hautala and the Magnitskiy case

The European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights is also monitoring the investigation into the Sergei Magnitskiy case. Magnitskiy was sent to prison and subsequently killed by Interior Ministry officers. The case is associated with major fraud and theft of revenues from the Hermitage Capital Company. Even though the head of the subcommittee, Heidi Hautala, has repeatedly criticized inaction by the Russian authorities in the case, and demanded an official explanation from the Interior Ministry, the investigation is still incomplete and suspects have still not been taken into custody.

As Hautala stated to GZT.RU, despite the fact that the EU subcommittee on human rights is not allowed to determine the alliance's foreign policy, it can influence the opinion of the European Parliament. «The Lisbon Treaty on the reform of the EU parliament gives it more power than before,» claimed Hautala. «In addition to public resolutions, the European Parliament is now able to demand that Russian representatives appear before the subcommittee, and provide the necessary explanations.»

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