An estimated 600 activists have been detained in Moscow this week for openly or tacitly protesting Vladimir Putin's return to the presidential post. Many of those detained were participants in the city's new wave of low-profile protests and say they were arrested for actions as inoffensive as wearing white or joining in a walk through the city center. Moscow officials say, however, suggest that reports of arbitrary arrests are exaggerated. Yelena Vlasenko of RFE/RL's Russian Service (Radio Liberty) spoke to Vladimir Platonov, the speaker of the Moscow City Duma, about the treatment of the activists.
RFE/RL: People in Moscow are being aggressively detained, on a mass scale and with no apparent basis. Is the City Duma prepared to take some measures to respond to this?
Vladimir Platonov: Who is determining whether the detentions are on a mass scale or are founded or unfounded? Radio Liberty or whom?
RFE/RL: I personally saw, as did many human rights activists, how OMON troops seized people simply for sitting or standing on the street, doing nothing illegal.
Platonov: We live in state that is guided by law. If a citizen believes that his rights are being illegally violated, he should go to the prosecutor's office and file a complaint saying who detained him, when, and for what. And then prosecutors can check whether our laws were being legally observed. There's nothing new about this, even in other countries.
RFE/RL: But there's something new about Moscow. The streets in the city center are blockaded and being guarded by large numbers of OMON troops and Moscow police. It's become dangerous to even walk through these streets, because you risk being detained for nothing.
Platonov: I'm not aware that a person can simply be detained for nothing. I'll say it one more time: If a citizen believes that someone has behaved illegally in their dealings with him, then he should go to prosecutors and they'll check whether or not there was a reason. That practice exists all over the world.
RFE/RL: For all intents and purposes, martial law has been imposed in Moscow.
Platonov: Who told you that? Do you even know what the procedure is for imposing martial law? Is that what you see happening here?
RFE/RL: And you truly believe that's not what the current situation resembles?
Platonov: No. In my opinion, there is no martial law in the city.
RFE/RL: Then why is law enforcement out in such strong numbers on the streets?
Platonov: To maintain order. There are a huge number of events going on all at once. There were the [May] holidays, there was [Putin's] inauguration, we commemorated Victory Day. That's why they're there. There were people who participated in unauthorized events and force was used against them. Are you aware that those kinds of things go on in every state? Have you ever looked at how they react to unauthorized actions in France, Italy, England, or the United States? Do you know what the police do there?
RFE/RL: Tell me.
Platonov: You didn't answer my question. If in another country an unauthorized action takes place, do you know how the police will respond?
RFE/RL: Yes, I know. But I also know that walking is not an unauthorized illegal activity.
Platonov: I agree with you completely. So, if a person believes that he was simply out walking and was illegally detained, he should appeal to prosecutors to carry out a check and the people at fault will be punished.
RFE/RL: Are you personally aware of any cases where people who were simply out walking were detained?
Platonov: No, I'm not aware of that, because I haven't served in the prosecutor's office since 1991.
RFE/RL: Is the City Duma planning to make an official statement about this situation?
Platonov: The thing is that prosecutors are not going to organize a session of the City Duma just because journalists are calling for action. We will definitely receive some kind of information about what happened and how, as well as explanations from both prosecutors and citizens who believe they need to speak to us.
RFE/RL: And when can we expect some kind of reckoning or a special session on the events?
Platonov: First, we have to receive the information. These are interesting questions you're asking, considering nothing's happened.
RFE/RL: It's your opinion that "nothing's happened" in Moscow?
Platonov: I'm talking about the fact that the Moscow Duma hasn't received any kinds of documents or materials [relating to this issue], so I can't tell you when and what will be discussed.
Translated by Daisy Sindelar