Astrakhan police on high alert due to protests
The Astrakhan oblast’s Ministry of the Interior reported that police officers were on high-alert as a result of the rally For the Abolition of the Mayoral Election Results.
As was written in Caucasian Knot, a political hunger strike has continued in Astrakhan since 15 March in order to protest the results of the 4 March mayoral elections. Former mayoral candidate Oleg Shein is among the participants in the hunger strike. According to official figures, Mikhail Stolyarov won the contested mayoral election. Famous blogger Alexei Navalny and Doctor Elizabeth Glinka arrived in Akstrakhan on 9 April in a show of support. Today hunger strike participants staged an unsanctioned protest. Clashes ultimately developed between the hunger strikers and supporters of Mikhail Stolyarov.
Police Major General Grigory Kulik, head of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Astrakhan oblast, stated: “I call on everyone involved in the process to respect the law, and on the politicians to think not about their political ratings, but about the safety of the people living in Astrakhan oblast, and also to respect the choice of the majority of citizens.”
In a statement on the website of the Ministry’s website, he continued: “Law enforcement agencies are reminded that responsibility for the safety of the citizens themselves lies with the organizers of these activities.”
Former mayoral candidate and leader of the local A Just Russia branch Oleg Shein countered that the tense situation was provoked by local authorities.
Kommersant reports that according to Shein, a “peaceful meeting” was supposed to be held upon the arrival of Navalny and the journalists and others from Moscow. However, “the oblast administration caught up to the same area with their own supporters and attempted to arrange a counter-protest.”
Supporters of the hunger strikers, Shin noted, attempted to reach the oblast administrative building.
He continued: “At the start, they had to break through a chain of police officers that refused to allow people into the oblast administration, and then, when people wanted to return, they had to break through the chain of police officers once again in order to leave the oblast administration.”
Shein noted as well that while he feels “a certain dizziness… in general health is good enough to ensure a clear mind.”
A Just Russia State Duma Deputy Dmitry Gudkov arrived today in Astrakhan in a show of support for the hunger strikers. He tweeted, “Shein called and asked that I come quickly. Clashes are starting, fighting for the tents.”
Participants in the Astrakhan rally include supporters who attempted to break into the regional CEC building in protest. According to preliminary data, there were no detainees. Interfax reported that there were approximately 150 participants in the protest.
Astrakhan Oblast Governor Alexander Zhilkin stated earlier that he believes that the electoral defeat of Oleg Shein was objective and that the hunger strike is a technology intended to enable Shein to achieve his goals.
The governor subsequently adjusted his position slightly, stating in his blog on 3 April: " I do not rule out the presence of violations during the election period. I met with an interparliamentary group that visited Asktrakhan and confirmed their willingness to participate in discussions of the requirements under its authority."