24 February 2022
by Boris Altshuler, chair of Right of the Child, a regional civil society organisation; member of the Moscow Helsinki Group; member of convocations III and IV of Russia’s Public Chamber
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
Two military special ops in February 2022 constitute a tragic turn in Russia’s recent history.
On the night of 23-24 February of this year, the Russian President declared the start of a special military operation in Ukraine. War is always terrifying. And in the long-term economic scheme, the victims of this war will be the millions of impoverished Russian families and their children who even today are barely making ends meet.
On 17 February of this year, at 6 in the morning, the Chief of the Main Administration of the Interior Ministry for Moscow (judging from the harshness of the measures undertaken, he was carrying out orders from higher up) ordered Moscow’s entire Police Department and Criminal Investigations Department to begin an unprecedented special operation detaining participants in the mass protests in Troitsk against the chopping down of “Moscow’s lungs”–the unique Troitsk forest, where the plan is to build a gigantic school for 2100 children and a kindergarten for 350. Meanwhile, Troitsk has plenty of land that has gone vacant for years, and the place in the forest chosen by authorities is precisely in the zone of the “takeoff-landing” noise effect from Vnukovo airport, where (according to documents) the sound level substantially exceeds the health levels permissible for educational institutions. Sergei Sobyanin’s approval of this project is explained by the criminally ordered falsification of documents and expert analyses for the project.
They began chopping down the forest for the school on 18 January of this year. For an entire month the residents of Troitsk tried to stop this insanity. They hugged hundred-year-old firs and blocked the road to equipment. The lumber boss’s shout to “saw off her foot” became emblematic of those days, and protesters were beaten up by criminals and members of a private military company hired by the authorities. But as of 17 February, law enforcement has joined in. They are picking up protest participants at home, outside with their small children, and from hospitals and delivering them to police stations all over Moscow, where charges are drawn up against them (for some, as many as 10) to be passed on to the courts. They are accused of participating in an unsanctioned (and who is supposed to sanction it? the same authorities whose decisions the residents are disputing???) public protest (under Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Violations). They are being threatened with criminal prosecution as well. Today, 24 February, during an arrest, an officer (a senior operations officer for major cases in Moscow’s Northwest Division of the Police Administration]) threatened a woman he was supposed to take to the police station with his service weapon, demanding that she open her car. Officers are carrying out someone’s very harsh order, the harshness of which is especially surprising since this relates to a completely nonpolitical protest. The repressions’ victims are ordinary residents of Troitsk, Moscow, and Russia, citizens who regret the destruction of the Troitsk forest. Even musicians who played next to the fence of the notorious construction site in support of the residents’ protest are being charged.
The war in Afghanistan was the primary cause of the USSR’s demise. The war in Ukraine is a threat to Russian national security and even to the Russian Federation’s very existence.
The war with the residents of Troitsk is a signal to all of Russia’s many millions, to all its citizens, to sit tight and not budge, and to put up with everything the rotten, corrupt leadership is going to do to them.
One wants to believe that reason will win out in the Kremlin after all. That the war with Ukraine will be stopped and Russia’s citizens will acquire legitimate opportunities to protest without the approval of the leadership whose actions they are disputing.
Translated by Marian Schwartz