A few dozens of people gathered at the Nikulinsky District Court of Moscow, where hearings on the Bolotnaya Square case take place. These are mostly lawyers, human rights activists, and relatives of the accused. Many of them are wearing badges “Freedom to prisoners of May 6.” Basically everyone here knows everyone, they ask each other how the things are, discuss current events. Some even joke about the “vegetable warehouse.” Someone offers “washed apples.” The beginning of a trial traditionally starts late. It is one of the procedural violations that is constantly recorded by the United Public Observation Group, which monitors the freedom of peaceful assembly and sensational court cases in Russia.
Convoy escorts the accused to the courtroom along the security line made by bailiffs to the applause of sympathizers and shouts “Hold on, guys!” and “Give them freedom!” However, the trial ended without actually starting due to an illness of one of the accused. Judge Natalia Nikishina, head of the Zamoskvoretsky District Court, postpones the hearing for a week. This is her first political case of such magnitude. They even say she really did not want to take the case of bolotniki [participants of the rally in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. – Ed.]. But she had to.
In general, there are 26 people in the Bolotnaya Square case, which is described by the journalist, public counsel for the defense of one of the accused, and member of the working group of Public Investigation of May 6 Events Dmitry Borko as “a trial against the protest.” The so-called “case of the 12” was isolated into a separate proceeding, it has been going on for 3 months. In it, 12 participants of the rally in the Bolotnaya Square held on May 6, 2012, are accused of participating in “mass disturbances” and applying violence against representatives of government who were not threatening their lives or health. The court decision is expected near the end of the year. Nobody dares to make more exact predictions. Justice is too unpredictable here, even for itself.
However, no matter what the outcome of “the case of 12” will be, trials of Bolotnaya Square activists will not be over yet. Five more “Bolotnaya prisoners” are waiting for their turn in the investigatory isolation ward or under the recognizance not to leave. The investigation in their case is still in process. Novaya Gazeta issue of October 14 dedicated a double-page spread to these people. Among the convicted of “mass disturbances” are a doctor of economy sciences, a volunteering teacher, an elderly woman (who is a street musician), a student of the judicial psychology department. The note about Dmitry Rukavishnikov is the most striking – the man has a postoperative suture along the whole body, and a non-functioning arm; he is accused of moving portable public toilets near the Bolotnaya Square by three meters.
Stories of the people involved in “the case of 12” and things they are accused of are no less shocking. Mostly, those are people born after 1985, but all of them differ greatly in social status and views. Some human rights activists tend to find symbolism in here: whoever you are, left or right, military servant or artist, oligarch or shop assistant – public activity might put an end to your freedom.
Nikolay Kavkazsky is 26. According to Russian press, which quotes his colleagues, Kavkazsky was dealing more with rights protection than with activism, he was working for a human rights organization “For Civil Rights,” he was and still is opposing violent methods of struggle. The investigation established that on May 6, 2012, Kavkazsky punched and kicked special purpose police officers in the Bolotnaya Square. Even though his comrades state that Kavkazsky left Bolotnaya Square as soon as he learned that a sitting strike started. During the process, Kavkazsky challenged the judge at least twice due to the absurdity of charges in terms of the law. Considering the state of his health, he was allowed to be put under house arrest instead of being in an isolation ward.
One of the conditions of talking to Kavkazsky, set by his lawyer, was not getting into details of the case, only general assessment of it could be discussed.
What is your general evaluation of the Bolotnaya Square case? How much significance does it bear for the present-day Russia, for both civic society and the government? What kind of significance is it?
“I think that this case became the new support point for much more harsh persecutions of the opposition. As Viktor Shenderovich said, before, the government’s strategy was to narrow the sphere of freedom, just like suffocation is happening, but in a way that people would not notice it. And in the Bolotnaya case, the government has made a revolutionary, or to be more precise, reactionary leap, which led to a very fast deterioration of the situation. And this is even more noticeable against the background of that imaginary Medvedev thaw, which was followed by the triumph of reaction.”
In what way did the Bolotnaya Square case influence society? Are people intimidated now? Or will they be – since the process is not over yet.
“Yes, it was intimidating. Many people emigrated. Rallies now have fewer participants. A significant part of the opposition is demoralized. But I think that the opposition will gradually rehabilitate from this blow. And if it manages to find new forms, like creating mass democratic movement, for example, which could at least technically look like the Polish Solidarity (not a union of leaders, but a mass movement, mass party with working primary and local offices), it might influence the government in some way and it will have to take it into consideration.”
Is the society ready for this, or does it depend on the opposition for the most part?
“It is a complicated question, whether the society is ready for this. But I think that the opposition, both liberal and left, has to work towards it. Not by organizing ritual rallies every time, but doing some work among their followers. People must be constantly and regularly engaged in activity.”
What is your evaluation of the recent events in Biryulevo?
“It is evident that our country is moving towards a very dangerous tendency: extreme forms of nationalism and fascism. Pogroms on a national basis are starting. And there is no proof that the government has nothing to do with it. The government often heats up nationalist spirit through its mass media, pro-governmental youth movements cooperate with nationalists. Therefore, by making people of different nationalities fight each other, the government distracts them from fighting truly important problems. For example, against the raise of pension age, increase of public utility payments, cut of social budget, and other issues.”
P.S. Nikolay Kavkaszky’s answers to questions were received through his lawyer.