A conspiratory meeting of the delegation of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum with activists of organisations that are part of the Other Russia coalition and the Coordinating committee of the opposition in St Petersburg (KSPO) took place in St Petersburg yesterday.
The seven-member foreign delegation was headed by the chairperson of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, Green Member of the Finnish Parliament, and member of the parliamentary legal committee, Heidi Hautala. Earlier, Hautala was head of the Green faction in the European Parliament.
The opposition in St Petersburg was represented at the meeting by National-Bolsheviks, Avant-Garde of Red Youth (AKM), Oborona, United Civic Front (OGF), and Yabloko.
Later on, the Finnish friends of the “dissenters” in St Petersburg met with the leader of the NAROD movement, former member of the St Petersburg city council, Sergey Gulyaev. He had set aside time for the meeting with the foreign guests ahead of his trip to Moscow to attend the federal assembly of the Other Russia coalition, which will open today.
The federal assembly will hold so-called “primeries” to elect a united opposition candidate for president in 2008; Gulyaev is one of the contenders for the position. Six delegates from the Leningrad region and 18 from St Petersburg will take part in the assembly.
During the course of the lengthy discussion, the Finnish guests expressed their concern about the the conservation of St Petersburg’s architectural heritage in connection with the construction of the Okhta Center. In the words of the Finnish guests, the opposition to the construction of the Gazprom tower is a “school of democracy” for the city’s diverse opposition movement.
The activists of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum intend to influence the Finnish Union of Architects to express their solidarity with the position of their colleagues in St Petersburg and the criticism of the project to build the Okhta Center.
The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum was established after the killing of the Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, on the initiative of the Finnish sections of PEN and Amnesty International, journalists, and politicians.
The Forum has some 50 active members, both politically non-committed and representatives of political parties, such as the Greens, the Swedish People’s Party, and Leftist Alliance (former Communist Party).
The first joint event of the Forum and the Russian opposition was a conference on “Human rights and democracy in Russia”, which took place on 3-4 July on the island fortress of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg), just off Helsinki.
This was not the first visit of Finnish activists to St Petersburg after having met the Russian opposition activists in Suomenlinna. On 17 August, members of the youth wing of the post-communist Leftist Alliance, which has 19 MPs in the Finnish Parliament and 1 in the European Parliament.
At the August meeting, there were representatives of AKM, OGF, Oborona, Yabloko, National-Democratic Youth League (NDSM), Russian Social-Democratic Youth Union (RSDSM), and Federation of Socialist Youth (FSM).
Translation: Kerkko Paananen