Authorities in Russia’s Republic of Mari El are playing “hide and seek” with Vasily Nikolaev, the webmaster of the regime-critical news portal, MariUver. The authorities are blocking Mr Nikolaev’s application for a new internal passport, which he needs to renew his foreign passport.
The situation has become outright farcical: When Mr Nikolaev came to apply for a new internal passport, the officials in the passport office hurriedly began to pack their things to move to new premises. The office had received a hasty order from above, apparently from the office of the President of Mari El.
The head of the migration service of the Republic of Mari El, Vladimir Zakharov, claimed that Mr Nikolaev, who has a foreign passport of a Russian citizen, was, in fact, not a citizen of the Russian Federation. Authorities advised Mr Nikolaev that he better not come to Mari El again, which was clearly a thinly veiled threat.
There have been several violent attacks against opposition activists and independent journalists in Mari El in recent years. Most notably, the Chairman of the All-Mari Congress, Vladimir Kozlov, was severely beaten in the centre of the Mari El capital, Yoshkar-Ola, in 2005. His wife was beaten up in 2007. Journalists critical of the republican leadership have been killed.
Vasily Nikolaev lives and works in Tartu, Estonia. He has been deeply involved in developing Fenno-Ugric cooperation in Estonia, Russia, and Finland for almost two decades. His news portal, MariUver, has been fiercely critical of the leadership of the Republic of Mari El and of the policies of the republic’s President, Leonid Markelov.
Власти Марий Эл играют в прятки
Василий Николаев, 18.02.2008