As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was showing his liberal side during a surprise audience
with Dmitry Muratov and Mikhail Gorbachev on January 29 condemning the killings of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and "Novaya gazeta" journalist Anastasia Baburova, the less liberal Federal Security Service (FSB) was detaining opposition activists protesting those same killings outside the FSB building in Moscow's Lubyanka Square.
While Medvedev was promising Muratov to help build a memorial to the victims of Stalinist mass murders, KGB successors arrested
several members of the Yabloko party and journalists, including a photographer from RFE/RL's Russian Service
, next to an existing monument to the victims of Stalin's regime on Lubyanka.
Maksim Kruglov, one of the protesters, spoke to RFE/RL during the rally: "We want to bring public attention to the fact that political assassinations and the elimination of political opponents have unfortunately become everyday practice in Russia today. The senior leadership of the country is silent, so we believe the public should offer its reaction and send a message to the leadership, to the president and the prime minister, to demand that they respond [to the killings] and recognize the significance of these events." The Yabloko activists chose to protest outside the FSB building because "it is largely responsible for the system of government that is to blame for these killings."
The protesters -- and journalists accompanying them -- were promptly rounded up by the police and taken inside the FSB building. Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin later arrived at FSB headquarters to rescue his younger colleagues.
Eventually the Yabloko activists were released after five hours of detention, each charged with failure to officially notify the authorities of an upcoming rally. The detained protesters claimed that they were each holding a one-man picket, which under Russian law did not require them to notify the city authorities ahead of time.
Each of the protesters has been summoned to answer the charges on January 30.
-- Pavel Butorin