Other Russia Member Seeks Asylum in Finland

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Sergey Porokhovoy, member of the Russian opposition party, Other Russia, has applied for political asylum in Finland. Mr Porokhovoy is one of 13 activists of Other Russia, who are charged in St Petersburg with political crimes under Russia’s “anti-extremism” law. The authorities accuse the members of Other Russia of continuing the activities of the left-wing political party, National Bolshevik Party (NBP), which was banned in 2007 — also under Russia’s draconian anti-extremist legislation.

Other Russia was established in July 2010, but was denied official registration. The leader of Other Russia is the Russian writer and dissident, Eduard Limonov, who has presented himself as candidate to Russia’s presidency. The party’s St Petersburg organisation has been central in organising opposition demonstrations in the city. In May 2011, Other Russia joined two other left-wing parties, ROT Front and Rodina: Common Sense, in establishing a “National Salvation Committee.”

The case against the “St Petersburg Thirteen” is extraordinary because of the number of people that are being charged with political crimes. The accusations against the Other Russia activists were brought under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, which criminalises political activism that Russia’s current ruling regime deems a danger to its own interests. The Russian authorities have widely abused the infamous Article 282, especially following amendments passed in 2003.

SOVA Centre, a Moscow-based NGO monitoring hate crimes, noted that the anti-extremist law had been used to persecute government critics including journalists, artists, human rights defenders, and religious organisations. Alexander Verkhovsky, head of SOVA Centre, said the law was a “universal tool” that could be used to target political, religious, or union activists. Allison Gill, Russia director of Human Rights Watch, said the law was being used to silence independent opinion.

The Russian parliament passed further amendments, which made the distribution of extremist content online punishable with up to five years in jail. The legislation regards the content in blogs as public distribution and equates blogs to mass media. The new amendments effectively made it illegal to quote statements of nonviolent political organisations banned under the anti-extremist law — thus criminalising the writings of a vast number of rank-and-file opposition activists.

Those being accused in St Petersburg in the case include Andrey Dmitriev, leader of Other Russia’s organisation in St Petersburg, as well as Ravil Bashirov, Igor Boykov, Vladislav Ivakhnik, Roman Khrenov, Vadim Mamedov, Alexey Marochkin, Andrey Milyuk, Andrey Pesotsky, Oleg Petrov, Sergey Porokhovoy, Alexander Yashin, and Alexey Zentsov. Several members of Other Russia are currently serving prison sentences or are under investigation on charges of political crimes.

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