> On Political Prisoners Day, Kremlin Adds to Their Number, Bringing the Total to 315
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On Political Prisoners Day, Kremlin Adds to Their Number, Bringing the Total to 315

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 30 – Even as Russian human rights activists marked the Day of the Political Prisoner, the Memorial Human Rights organization said that the Russian powers that be had arrested yet another, boosting the total of those behind bars illegitimately for opposing the increasingly repressive Putin regime to 315.

            Sergey Davidis, head of the program to provide support to political prisoners at Memorial, told a roundtable at the Sakharov Center that as of yesterday, there had been 314 but that now the authorities have arrested another figure in the so-called “Moscow affair,” Pavel Novikov  (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/nravstvennyj-protest/).

            Another participant in the session, Alla Frolova of the OVD Info and Legal Assistance Group said that the number of people the authorities have arrested and cycled through detention centers is far larger. During the summer demonstrations in Moscow, “a record 2700” people were detained and many, although released, have had criminal charges brought against them.

            Vladimir Kara-Murza, head of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, talked about the role that Vladimir Bukovsky, who died only two days earlier, had played over the course of decades. And other speakers, including  Lev Ponomaryev and Valery Borshchev, spoke of the need to continue “a moral struggle” given the lack of “real political means for reducing the number of political prisoners.

            The mother of the currently longest serving Russian political prisoner, Aleksey Pichugin, who has been in jail since 2003, had her lawyer read out a statement denouncing the Russian authorities for ignoring the decision in his favor by the European Human Rights Court and delaying taking any actions in his favor.

            The final speaker at the session may have been the most moving. The daughter of Vlad Shvechenko, who is in prison for being involved with what the authorities call “an undesirable organization,” said that she did not want to spend her childhood fighting the government but that the government had left her no choice.

            Anastasiya Shevchenko said that her mother had observed that if the powers that be continue to arrest people, “soon a community of good people will assembly in the prisons of Russia.”  At the conclusion of her remarks, she was greeted with the loudest round of applause in the course of the session.

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