Beaten and arrested, activist Andrey Kalikh: Young Russians protest because they know what democracy is
Andrey Kalikh, an experienced anti-corruption activist, was detained in the streets of Saint Petersburg on February 27, 2022 while protesting against Russia’s military invasion in Ukraine. He shared his first-hand story with BlueLink’s Chief Editor Pavel Antonov via a live internet link.
I am a Russian right anti-corruption journalist and pro-democracy activist, active mostly in St Petersburg. I am connected and work with international investigative journalism teams in different countries of the EU. I have been taking part in a number of protests which started right after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On February 27, 2022, I was detained along with a group of the people who were on the street protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the video: footage, provided by Andrey Kalikh shows how police officers brutally push him on the ground, breaking his arm.
So, what was the justification? What was the reason for this violent action against you?
The reason was that I was calling other people to help victims police brutality, as they were starting to beat some girls just in the street before me.
There was a group of very young people, mostly students, who were blocked at the corner, on the street by police members. There are special force police units who were very brutal – just beating [people] for nothing, for chanting “No war” or “Russia, get out of Ukraine” or something like this.
It was a peaceful rally of a very small number of people. There were maybe not more than a hundred people in the street. There were different groups who were spread across the very center of the city, but in this exact geographical point there were just a hundred people, not more. And they were blocked by the special forces.
I was just shouting quite loudly: “Just release them” or “Stop beating!” or something like this. And I was attacked by two policemen from behind who started to beat me. They put my head like this and there was screening and just brutally threatening me and as you can see on the video. Of course, they just put me down on the street, on the road where actually the cars are passing and I was not able to stay anymore and I just fell down. Very brutally.
What is the sense among activists and civil society people in Russia, who are concerned with the use of military force? Are there many people who are willing to voice an anti-war opinion?
Unfortunately, not many. And this is of course a problem, but there are justifications for this. I don’t shame these people. I don’t blame these people. Because Russia is now absolutely a not semi, but fully authoritarian country where people are really afraid to go on the street and this picture you show, Pavel shows a [photo] of a really very rare moment, when we see lots of people. They are not afraid to go out. And they know exactly about the prospects of this getting out actually on the streets, because they could be brutally detained by the police again. And the police, you don’t see it, it’s on the edge of this picture. There are many police buses, staying just behind the picture on the right side. And I know, when people are shouting something, like some anti-military slogans or something like this, they really get in trouble with the police.
I am noticing here that these are mostly young people, at least here in the front.
So, what is your observation? Who are the people who are willing to take the risk against police brutality and actually voice?
First of all, I should say Russian society is very much separated between the elderly and and young. The elderly are voting for Putin’s regime are deciding for our future, which is disgusting of course. And there are only young people who are going out on the streets to protest any war crime or any government activities by Russia. Because they don’t watch propaganda TV, they use only reliable sources of information, they know what’s actually going on in the country. They have actually grown up in a new society already. So, they know what democracy is, they went to the Western countries also, they saw life abroad. So, they know what democracy actually is and therefore they are of the democratic value.
But they are very few people, unfortunately, and the civil society is of course very much divided by the repressions right now, which is going on. For example, today the old non-government organization Memorial was banned by the Supreme Court, which is absolutely horrible and disgusting. On the background of the military crisis in Ukraine it doesn’t seem like a big sensation. But in different times it will be really a scandal in the world. Now it’s just banned.
I’m very much afraid for Alexey Navalny, the opposition leader number one in Russia, who is now in jail, and today is his fifth day of his new trial And I’m very much afraid for his life today, because nobody cares anymore what’s going to happen with him and what could happen to him when Putin suddenly wants to shoot him down or to you know… There are many threats.
Is there anything which the Western, or let say the global pro-democratic civic movement could do to help better fellow activists, fellow democratically minded people in Russia?
I don’t know that. I’m not sure that we really need the help at this moment. I think our entire task of this civilized world is to cut down this threat of, let’s say, Putin’s regime. It became dangerous for all of us. So we should push this regime out.
I would call upon the West, Western countries, EU countries, just to make any kind of effort possible to impose new sanctions against the regime, against Putin’s violence. We are not afraid of what’s going on with the country. We are really afraid of what’s going to be with our world. That’s the main important point now at the moment. So we should decide the threats and about the world’s peace security for all of us.
Thank you, Andrey. In Bulgaria and in many other European Union countries there have been rallies, protests, expressions of solidarity and apparently this also mounts up to pressure on our, on the European government to act. We saw over the last days that the decisiveness of these governments has increased and we are looking forward in many ways to seeing a resolution to this crisis, which hopefully would be first of all to the best of the world in terms of avoiding a global conflict, but also to the best of freedom, to the best of human rights, and the choice of every individual and every country to decide on the way they want to live.
Thank you very much for your time. We are remaining connected through BlueLink channel and we will keep searching for the viewpoint for the fact that brings light on the role of civil society in the context of the current conflict.
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