Russia 101026 Basic Political Developments

Press forbidden from attending new Moscow mayor's first session

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Press forbidden from attending new Moscow mayor's first session
11:16 26/10/2010

The media were prohibited from attending new Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's first session in the Moscow City Hall on Tuesday.

Security at the City Hall in downtown Moscow said they had been ordered not to allow media into the building as of October 26.

"We were told that journalists were not allowed in. It is still unclear whether this is a permanent measure or not," a RIA Novosti correspondent said.

Former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, sacked by the Russian president in September, usually permitted the media to attend his sessions, which he traditionally held at 10:00 a.m. Moscow time (6:00 GMT) on Tuesdays.

Sobyanin, who was sworn into office by President Dmitry Medvedev last week, is holding his first session at 11:00 a.m. Moscow time. The agenda includes discussion of Moscow's electricity supplies.

MOSCOW, October 26 (RIA Novosti)

October 26, 2010 12:12

Rally of 800 demonstrators on Triumfalnaya Square given go-ahead - source (Part 2)

MOSCOW. Oct 26 (Interfax) - Moscow authorities have given their official authorization to a rally of 800 civil rights activists on Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square, a source in the Moscow government told Interfax on Tuesday.

The City Hall has received a written consent from Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the chief negotiator and first applicant for the rally in defense of Article 31 of the constitution [guaranteeing the freedom of assembly], to hold a rally of 800 demonstrators on Triumfalnaya Square," the source said.

"It said in an official statement that the rally on Triumfalnaya Square, scheduled for October 31, has been authorized," he also said.

"No other documents have been received from other applicants," he said.

The organizers of the rally, the head of Moscow's Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva and opposition leaders Eduard Limonov and Konstantin Kosyakin, met in Moscow on Monday evening to discuss the City Hall's proposed go-ahead for a rally of 800 demonstrators, not 1,500, as requested by civil rights activists.

Member of the Other Russia coalition Alexander Averin told Interfax that Alexeyeva had urged a compromise and agreed to a rally of 800 participants.

Limonov and Kosyakin continued to insist on 1,500, the number characteristic of such rallies, according to Averin.

"It's not a split, it's a disagreement. Disagreements sparked in the summer, but they were settled then and will be settled now," he said.

An application for a rally with 1,500 participants on Triumfalnaya Square on October 31 will be filed on Tuesday, he added.

"I hope the rally will be finally held on October 31," Alexeyeva told Interfax on Monday evening.

"I think the proposal for a 800-strong rally must be accepted. Limonov and Kosyakin sent a letter to the City Hall, requesting the go-ahead for a rally of 1,500 participants. I did not sign it. The authorities made a concession, while my colleagues keep insisting that their demand be fully met. When talks are held on a public action, both parties must make concessions, in my opinion, Alexeyeva said.

"It is a mistake, I think," she said in remarks about Limonov's rejection of the Moscow government's proposal

"If Limonov is positioning himself as a politician, he must be skilled in adjusting his position to the circumstances," she also said.

Alexeyeva said she has not made up her mind yet whether she will remain a co-organizer of rallies on Triumfalnaya Square.

In the past two years the square has been a scene of confrontation between civil society activists and police. Opposition figures and human rights activists - Eduard Limonov, Konstantin Kosyakin and Lyudmila Alexeyeva - have been applying to the city administration to permit Article 31 rallies, but every application has been turned down.

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Sobyanin Allows Larger 31st Rally
26 October 2010

By Alexander Bratersky

New Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's administration on Monday made another conciliatory move toward the opposition by significantly boosting the number of people who will be allowed to rally on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad this weekend.

Authorities have allowed 1,000 people to attend the Oct. 31 rally, veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Last week, the interim city government authorized the opposition to stage the rally but limited the number of participants to 200. It was the first time that City Hall had sanctioned the rally after denying 11 similar requests since 2009.

“This decision is a first step toward solving the situation under the new mayor,” Alexeyeva was quoted as saying.

The protests have been held on the 31st of every such month to draw attention to Article 31 of the Constitution, which grants freedom of assembly.

The activists had requested a protest with 1,500 participants. They will only be given a small part of the square because most of it was fenced off for construction work last month.

On Saturday, City Hall allowed another opposition rally on Pushkin Square, a gathering that human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov has called a “compromise” by City Hall.

Analysts say the softer stance on protesters was not introduced by Sobyanin but by the presidential administration.

Kremlin deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov spoke against the ban on Triumfalnaya rallies in a recent interview with Vzglyad.

"City officials are following precise signals from the Kremlin," Alexei Mukhin, an analyst with the Center for Political Information, said by telephone, referring to Surkov's interview.

But Sobyanin, who was inaugurated as mayor Thursday, sent more mixed signals Monday.

The first city government session to be chaired by him will be closed for the press, City Hall spokeswoman Galina Sugak told The only media outlet allowed in will be TV Center, the City Hall-owned television channel, Sugak said, adding that reporters would be allowed at future sessions.

Sobyanin also delayed the start of city government's first session by one hour and reduced the items on the agenda from two to one. The government will meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. and will only debate the city's electricity supply through 2020, City Hall said on its web site.

Also Monday, Sobyanin ordered his subordinates to cut the number of days Muscovites have to spend without hot water during the summer, RIA-Novosti reported, citing an unidentified city official.

Hot water is switched off for 10 to 14 days in most parts of the city to allow for repairs to the aging plumbing system.

Separately, Sobyanin chaired a session on preparation for the winter, after which he said all departments should gear up for a cold one. He also made a suggestion regarding air quality, telling City Hall that unlike roads, the air was full of dust and this should be fought with "vacuum cleaners," City Hall said in its web site.

But the very first decree Sobyanin signed Monday had nothing to do with water, television or vacuum cleaners. His first act was to sign a decree to confirm that he had taken up his new post, his press service said on its web site.

Sobyanin is expected to revise much of the work of his predecessor, Yury Luzhkov. Among other things, he has promised to fight the city's catastrophic traffic jams.

Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin said Monday that he would continue a legal battle about the Genplan, a disputed plan for the city's development through 2025.

Mitrokhin said he had filed an appeal after the Moscow City Court rejected his plea to cancel the plan. Mitrokhin said the plan was not agreed upon with the federal authorities as required by law.

He also said Moscow's traffic woes were a direct consequence of the plan, which advocates more office construction in the city center. "If he does not revise it, Sobyanin will show that he is following Luzhkov's legacy,” Mitrokhin said.

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