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Moscow Activists Defiant After City Bans 'Rally Of Maternal Anger'

Protests in response to recent arrests of Russian mothers engaged in civic activism are being planned in a number of Russian cities.
Protests in response to recent arrests of Russian mothers engaged in civic activism are being planned in a number of Russian cities.

Moscow authorities have banned a "March of Maternal Anger" planned for February 10, but the organizers plan to hold it regardless.

The rally was announced on January 31 after news emerged that Anastasia Shevchenko, an activist for the NGO Open Russia, had been refused permission to visit her disabled daughter in hospital until the girl was in a critical state.

Similar events -- held in response to recent arrests of Russian mothers engaged in civic activism on behalf of organizations the government has branded "undesirable" -- are planned in four other Russian cities.

A letter from Moscow city authorities, with official notice that the request to hold the rally had been denied, was posted on Facebook on February 4 by Varvara Gryaznova, one of the organizers. "Our anger is not subject to permission," Gryaznova wrote. "Enough of being scared, they feed off our fear." She added that the rally would go ahead despite the ban.

Missed Deadline

According to the authorities, organizers missed the deadline for applying to hold the rally, which is planned for February 10. Russia's law on public gatherings stipulates that requests must be filed not earlier than 15 days and not later than 10 days before the day of the planned event. Gryaznova and her fellow activists submitted their request on February 1, nine days before the rally date.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Gryaznova said she decided to organize the rally after she learned of the death of Shevchenko's daughter.

Shevchenko was placed under house arrest on January 23 because of her work for Open Russia. She is the first person to face criminal charges under a new law against "undesirable organizations" introduced in 2015.

On January 30, her daughter Alina was transferred from the care home she lived in to the intensive care unit of a local hospital after suffering cardiac failure.

Shevchenko requested that she be released to see her daughter, but she says she was not let go until late evening and reached the hospital only hours before her daughter passed away.

Shevchenko's lawyer, Sergei Badamshin, told the independent news agency Meduza on February 1 that the hospital took a long time to issue confirmation that the teenager had been admitted.

Gryaznova said that she and her fellow activists understand the risks of ignoring the ban, and are not pressuring people to join them. But they're determined to hold the protest despite the authorities' prohibition.

"As usual, the Moscow authorities think that people should get permission to express their emotion," she said. "It's better to issue a ban, just in case."

So far, almost 1,700 people have expressed interest or confirmed attendance on the Moscow event's Facebook page.

Rally organizers in other cities have yet to confirm whether they've been given the go-ahead.

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    Matthew Luxmoore

    Matthew Luxmoore is a Moscow-based journalist covering Russia and the former Soviet Union. He has reported for The New York Times in Moscow and has written for The Guardian, Politico, The New Republic, and Foreign Policy. He’s a graduate of Harvard’s Davis Center and a recipient of New York University's Reporting Award and the Fulbright Alistair Cooke Journalism Award.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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