PHOTO GALLERY: Police remove protesters from the Solovetsky Stone monument to victims of Soviet secret services in Moscow.
A motley band of bearded and unkempt activists from the unregistered Other Russia party have become the latest addition to Russia's offbeat opposition protest scene.
Since July 17, they have attempted every day to hold a sit-in protest at Solovetsky Stone, a monument to victims of the Soviet secret services outside the Federal Security Service's (FSB) central Moscow headquarters.
The protest has been forcefully dispersed every time.
The activists' goal: to campaign for the Russian authorities to set free Taisia Osipova whom activists believe to be a political prisoner jailed as a way of getting to her husband, a senior member of the Other Russia opposition group.
The consequences of their protest: at least 80 protesters have so far been dragged away from the stone and detained this week. Some of them have been beaten and one has even been hospitalized, according to "Novaya gazeta." "I became unwell and lost consciousness," one of the detained said.
"Novaya gazeta" has other photos of the arrest of activists on July 17 and July 18.
Murky Drugs Charges
Gazeta.ru reports that the police have taken a tough line with the activists because they could "commit acts of terrorism."
Osipova, 25, was arrested in November on murky charges of drug trafficking after the police said they found heroin in her apartment. The charges carry 10 years behind bars. Osipova has a five year old daughter.
Many opposition activists believe the drugs were planted by police from Smolensk's extremism department (Center E) hoping to put pressure on her husband, Sergei Fomchenko.
Clearly no stranger to brash provocation of the authorities herself, Osipova once threw a bouquet of flowers in the face of the Smolensk governor in 2003.
Her case had been under way in a Smolensk court and a verdict had been expected as early as July 21. Now the case has been postponed until the middle of August, which the opposition explains through the lack of evidence.
Osipova has become a minor cause celebre for Russia's opposition. The Solidarity movement has joined the protests at Solovetsky Stone. The Voina street art group has also championed her cause and contributed money to her legal battle.
On the afternoon of July 21, there was no trace of the sit-in protesters. Instead there were two police buses parked right by the stone, and the small park around it is sealed off.
Nearby, two young teenage girls were hurriedly plastering Lubyanka's underground walkways with posters of Osipova's daughter under the caption: "My mom was taken by the police."
Beneath the photo is a link to a website: spasem.org. The site features various videos of Other Russia activists being detained at the protest this week.
The girls were sure that the protest would happen on July 22, but could not confirm more than that.
"I don’t know what time they’re coming," said the older of the two, making a kicking motion with her feet. "They never let anyone know. But there’s meant to be three or four groups coming today. You should have seen it yesterday."
-- Tom Balmforth