EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
CASE OF FRUMKIN v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 74568/12)
<*> This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Frumkin v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Luis Guerra, President,
Branko Lubarda, judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 8 December 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
- The case originated in an application (no. 74568/12) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Russian national, Mr Yevgeniy Vladimirovich Frumkin (“the applicant”), on 9 November 2012.
- The applicant was represented by lawyers of the EHRAC/Memorial Human Rights Centre, NGOs with offices in Moscow and London. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
- The applicant alleged a violation of his rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and liberty. He also alleged that the administrative proceedings before the domestic courts had fallen short of guarantees of a fair hearing.
- On 29 August 2014 the application was communicated to the Government.
- The circumstances of the case
- The applicant was born in 1962 and lives in Moscow.
- On 6 May 2012 the applicant was arrested during the dispersal of a political rally at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. He was detained at the police station for at least thirty-six hours pending the administrative proceedings in which he was found guilty of failure to obey lawful police orders, an offence under Article 19.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences, and sentenced to fifteen days’ administrative detention. The parties’ submissions on the circumstances of the public assembly and its dispersal are set out in part A, and the specific facts relating to the applicant are set out in part B below.
- The public assembly of 6 May 2012
- The planning of the assembly
- On 23 April 2012 five individuals (Mr I. Bakirov, Mr S. Davidis, Ms Y. Lukyanova, Ms N. Mityushkina and Mr S. Udaltsov) submitted notice of a public demonstration to the mayor of Moscow. The march, with an estimated 5,000 participants, was to begin at 4 p.m. on 6 May 2012 from Triumfalnaya Square followed by a meeting at Manezhnaya Square, which was to end at 8 p.m. The aim of the demonstration was “to protest against abuses and falsifications in the course of the elections to the State Duma and of the President of the Russian Federation, and to demand fair elections, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the international obligations of the Russian Federation”.
- On 26 April 2012 the Head of the Moscow Department of Regional Security, Mr A. Mayorov, informed the organisers that the requested route could not be allocated because of preparations for the Victory Day parade on 9 May 2012. They proposed that the organisers hold the march between Luzhniki Street and Frunzenskaya embankment.
- On 27 April 2012 the organisers declined the proposal and requested an alternative route from Kaluzhskaya Square, down Bolshaya Yakimanka Street and Bolshaya Polyanka Street, followed by a meeting at Bolotnaya Square. The march was to begin at 4 p.m., and the meeting had to finish by 7.30 p.m. The number of participants was indicated as 5,000.
- On 3 May 2012 the Moscow Department of Regional Security approved the alternative route, having noted that the organisers had provided a detailed plan of the proposed events.
- On 3 May 2012 the Moscow Department of Regional Security informed the Chief of the Moscow Department of the Interior, Mr V. Kolokoltsev, that a different group of organisers had submitted notification of another public event – a meeting at Manezhnaya Square – which the Moscow authorities had rejected. The organisers of that event had expressed their intention to proceed in defiance of the ban and to squat on the square from 6 to 10 May 2012, ready to resist the police if necessary. The Department of the Interior was therefore requested to safeguard public order in Moscow.
- At 8 p.m. on 4 May 2012 the First Deputy Head of the Moscow Department of Regional Security, Mr V. Oleynik, held a working meeting with the organisers of the demonstration at Bolotnaya Square, at which they discussed the security issues. The Deputy Chief of the Public Order Directorate of the Moscow Department of the Interior, police colonel D. Deynichenko, took part in the meeting. The organisers stated at the meeting that the turnout could significantly exceed the expected 5,000 participants. They were warned that exceeding the number originally declared would be unacceptable. According to the applicant, during that meeting the organisers and the authorities agreed that since there was insufficient time for an on-the-spot reconnaissance, which would otherwise have been carried out, the assembly layout and the security arrangements would be identical to the previous public event organised by the same group of opposition activists on 4 February 2012. On that occasion, the march had proceeded down Yakimanka Street, followed by a meeting at Bolotnaya Square, and the venue of the meeting had included the park at Bolotnaya Square (in some documents referred to as “Repin park”) and the Bolotnaya embankment.
- On the same day the Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Mr A. Gorbenko, charged the Tsentralnyy district prefect with assisting the organisers in maintaining public order and security during the event. He ordered the Moscow Department of Regional Security to inform the organisers that their assembly notice had been accepted and to control its implementation. Other public agencies were assigned the duties of street cleaning, traffic control and ensuring the presence of ambulances at the site of the assembly.
- On 5 May 2012 the Moscow Department of Regional Security requested the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office to issue a warning to the organisers against exceeding the notified number of participants and against erecting camping tents at the meeting venue, an intention allegedly expressed by the organisers at the working meeting. The Moscow Department of Regional Security also referred to information found on the Internet that the demonstrators would go to Manezhnaya Square after the meeting. On the same day the Tsentralnyy District Prosecutor’s Office issued the relevant warning to two of the organisers, Mr Davidis and Mr Udaltsov.
- On the same day the Moscow Department of the Interior published on its website the official information about the forthcoming demonstration on 6 May 2012, including a map. The map indicated the route of the march, the traffic restrictions and an access plan to Bolotnaya Square; it delineated the area allotted to the meeting, which included the park at Bolotnaya Square. Access to the meeting was marked through the park.
- On the same day the Police Chief of the Moscow Department of the Interior, police general-major V. Golovanov, adopted a plan for safeguarding public order in Moscow on 6 May 2012 (the “security plan”). The 99-page security plan was an internal document which had not been disclosed to the public or to the organisers. In view of the forthcoming authorised demonstration at Bolotnaya Square and anticipated attempts by other opposition groups to hold unauthorised public gatherings, it provided for security measures in Moscow city centre and set up operational headquarters to implement them.
- Thirty-two high-ranking police officers, including eight general-majors, two military commanders and one emergency-relief official, were appointed to the operational headquarters. Deputy Police Chief of the Moscow Department of the Interior, police general-major V. Kozlov, was appointed as head of the operational headquarters; the Chief of the Special-Purpose Operational Centre of the Moscow Department of the Interior, police general-major V. Khaustov, and the Deputy Chief of the Public Order Directorate of the Moscow Department of the Interior, police colonel D. Deynichenko, were appointed as deputy heads of the operational headquarters.
- The security plan provided for an 8,094-strong crowd-control taskforce, comprising the police and the military, to police the designated security areas and to prevent unauthorised public gatherings and terrorist attacks. The main contingent was the police squad charged with cordon and riot-control duties in accordance with a structured and detailed action plan for each operational unit. Furthermore, it provided for a 785-strong police unit for the apprehension of offenders, escorting them to the police stations and drawing up administrative offence reports, assigned to operational posts across the city centre. They were instructed, in particular, to prepare templates for the administrative offence reports and to have at least forty printed copies of them at every police station. The security plan also provided for a 350-strong police unit for interception and apprehension of organisers and instigators of unauthorised gatherings. The squad had to be equipped with full protection gear and police batons. Each unit had to ensure effective radio communication within the chain of command. They were instructed to keep loudspeakers, metal detectors, handcuffs, fire extinguishers and wire clippers in the police vehicles.
- The security plan set out in detail the allocation and deployment of police vehicles, police buses, interception and monitoring vehicles and equipment, dog-handling teams, fire-fighting and rescue equipment, ambulances and a helicopter. It also foresaw a 1,815-strong reserve unit equipped with gas masks, aerosol grenades (“Dreif”), flash grenades (“Zarya-2”), bang grenades (“Fakel” and “Fakel-C”), a 40-mm hand-held grenade launcher (“Gvozd” 6Г-30), and a 43 mm hand-held grenade launcher (ГМ-94); tubeless pistols (ПБ-4СП) with 23-mm rubber bullets and propelling cartridges, and rifles (KC-23). Two water-cannon vehicles were ordered to be on standby, ready to be used against persistent offenders.
- All units were instructed to be vigilant and thorough in detecting and eliminating security threats and to be polite and tactful in their conduct citizens, engaging in a lawful dialogue with them without responding to provocations. If faced with an unauthorised gathering they were instructed to give a warning through a loudspeaker, to arrest the most active participants and to record video-footage of those incidents. The police chiefs were instructed to place plain-clothes officers among the protestors in order to monitor the threat of violence and terrorist attacks within the crowd and to take measures, where appropriate, to prevent and mitigate the damage and to pursue the perpetrators.
- The Chief of the Interior Department of the Tsentralnyy Administrative District of Moscow, police general-major V. Paukov, was required, among other tasks, to prepare, together with the organisers, the text of the public announcement to be made if the situation deteriorated. The head of the press communication service of the Moscow Department of the Interior, internal service lieutenant colonel Y. Alekseyeva, was in charge of communication with the press. The head of the Department for Liaison with Civil Society of the Moscow Department of the Interior, internal service colonel V. Biryukov, had to ensure “co-ordination with the representatives of public organisations and also co-ordination and information flow with other services of the Moscow Department of the Interior”.
- The units assigned to police the march and the meeting belonged to “Zone no. 8” (Kaluzhskaya Square, Bolotnaya Square and the adjacent territory). The zone commander was the Chief of the Riot Police of the Moscow Department of the Interior, police colonel P. Smirnov, with nine high-ranking police officers (police colonel P. Saprykin, police colonel A. Zdorenko, police lieutenant colonel A. Tsukernik, police colonel A. Kuznetsov, police colonel V. Yermakov, police colonel A. Kasatkin, police colonel A. Dvoynos, police captain R. Bautdinov and internal service lieutenant colonel D. Bystrikov) as his deputies.
- The units assigned to Zone no. 8 counted 2,400 riot police officers, of which 1,158 were on duty at Bolotnaya Square. They were instructed, in particular, to search the demonstrators to prevent them from taking camping tents to the site of the meeting and to obstruct access to Bolshoy Kamenyy bridge, diverting the marchers to Bolotnaya embankment, the place of the meeting. The adjacent park at Bolotnaya Square had to be cordoned off, and the only entrance to Bolotnaya embankment – from Malyy Kamenny bridge – had to be equipped with fourteen metal detectors, which were to be removed just before the march approached the site of the meeting. An exception was made for the organisers and the technical staff, who were allowed access behind the stage through two additional metal detectors. Further arrangements were made for access of the press.
- Lastly, the commandment of Zone no. 8, in particular police colonels Smirnov and Saprykin, were under orders to meet the organisers in person at the beginning of the event to remind them of their responsibilities and to have them sign an undertaking. The organisers would undertake to ensure the lawful and safe conduct of the event, and to refrain from any calls for forced change of the constitutional order and from hate speech and propaganda of violence or war. They would also undertake to be present at the venue until the end of the assembly and the departure of the participants. A video recording of the briefing and the signing of the undertaking had to be made.
- Dispersal of the meeting at Bolotnaya Square
- At about 1.30 p.m. on 6 May 2012 the organisers were allowed access to Bolotnaya Square to set up the stage and sound equipment. The police searched the vehicles delivering the equipment and seized three tents found amid the gear. They arrested several people for bringing the tents, and the installation of the equipment was delayed. During that time communication between the organisers setting up the stage and those leading the march was sporadic.
- At the beginning of the march, police colonel A. Makhonin met the organisers at Kaluzhskaya square to clarify any outstanding organisational matters and to have them sign the undertaking to ensure public order during the demonstration. He specifically asked Mr Udaltsov to ensure that no tents were placed on Bolotnaya Square and that the participants respected the limits on the place and time allocated for the assembly. The organisers gave their assurances on those issues and signed the undertaking.
- The march began at 4.30 p.m. at Kaluzhskaya Square. It went down Yakimanka Street peacefully and without disruption. The turnout exceeded expectations, but there is no consensus as to the exact numbers. The official estimate was that there were 8,000 participants, whereas the organisers considered that there had been about 25,000. The media reported different numbers, some significantly exceeding the above estimates.
- At about 5 p.m. the march approached Bolotnaya Square. The leaders found that the layout of the meeting and the placement of the police cordon did not correspond to what they had anticipated. Unlike on 4 February 2012, the park at Bolotnaya Square was excluded from the meeting venue, which was limited to Bolotnaya embankment. The cordon of riot police in full protection gear barred access to the park and continued along the whole perimeter of the meeting area, channelling the demonstration to Bolotnaya embankment. Further down the embankment there was a row of metal detectors at the entrance to the meeting venue. By that time the stage had been erected at the far end of Bolotnaya embankment and a considerable number of people had already accumulated in front of it.
- Faced with the police cordon and unable to access the park, the leaders of the march – Mr S. Udaltsov, Mr A. Navalnyy, Mr B. Nemtsov and Mr I. Yashin – stopped and demanded that the police open access to the park. According to the protestors, they were taken aback by the alteration of the expected layout and were unwilling to turn to Bolotnaya embankment; they therefore demanded that the police officers at the cordon move the cordon back to allow sufficient space for the protestors to pass and to assemble for the meeting. According to the official version, the protestors were not interested in proceeding to the meeting venue; they stopped because they had either intended to break the cordon in order to proceed towards Bolshoy Kamennyy bridge and then to the Kremlin, or to stir the crowd to incite disorder. It is common ground that the cordon officers did not enter into any discussion with the protest leaders and no senior officer was delegated to negotiate. After about fifteen minutes of attempting to engage with the cordon officers, at 5.16 p.m. the four leaders announced that they were going on a “sit-down strike” and sat on the ground. The people behind them stopped, although some people continued to go past them towards the stage. The leaders of the sit-in called on other demonstrators to follow their example and sit down, but only a few of their entourage did so (between approximately twenty and fifty people in total).
- Between 5.20 p.m. and 5.45 p.m. two State Duma deputies, Mr G. Gudkov and Mr D. Gudkov, contacted unidentified senior police officers to negotiate the enlargement of the restricted area by moving the police cordon behind the park along the lines expected by the organisers. At the same time Mr V. Lukin, the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, at the request of police colonel Biryukov, attempted to convince the leaders of the sit-in to resume the procession and to head towards the meeting venue at Bolotnaya embankment where the stage had been set up. During that time no senior police officer or municipal official came to the site of the sit-down protest, and there was no direct communication between the authorities and the leaders of the sit-in.
- At 5.40 p.m. one of the meeting participants announced from the stage that the leaders were calling on the demonstrators to support their protest. Some people waiting in front of the stage headed back to Malyy Kamennyy bridge, either to support the sit-down protest or to leave the meeting. The area in front of the stage almost emptied.
- At 5.43 p.m. the media reported that Mr Udaltsov had demanded that the protestors be given air time on Russia’s main television channels, that the presidential inauguration of Mr Putin be cancelled and that new elections be called.
- At 5.50 p.m. the crowd around the sit-down protest built up, which caused some congestion, and the leaders abandoned the protest and headed towards the stage, followed by the crowd.
- At 5.55 p.m. the media reported that the police authorities were regarding the strike as a provocation of mass disorder and were considering prosecuting those responsible for it.
- At the same time a commotion near the police cordon occurred at the place vacated by the sit-down protest, and the police cordon was broken in several places. A crowd of about 100 people spilled over to the empty space beyond the cordon. Within seconds the police restored the cordon, which was reinforced by an additional riot police force. Those who found themselves outside the cordon wandered around, uncertain what to do next. Several people were apprehended, others were pushed back inside the cordon, and some continued to loiter outside or walked towards the park. The police cordon began to push the crowd into the restricted area and advanced by several metres, pressing it inwards.
- At 6 p.m. police colonel Makhonin told Ms Mityushkina to make an announcement from the stage that the meeting was closed. She did so, but apparently her message was not heard by most of the demonstrators or the media reporters broadcasting from the spot. The live television footage provided by the parties contained no mention of her announcement.
- At the same time a Molotov cocktail was launched from the crowd at the corner of Malyy Kamenny bridge over the restored police cordon. It landed outside the cordon and the trousers of a passer-by caught fire. It was promptly extinguished by the police.
- At 6.15 p.m. at the same corner of Malyy Kamenny bridge the riot police began breaking into the demonstration to split the crowd. Running in tight formations, they pushed the crowd apart, arrested some people, confronted others and formed new cordons to isolate the sections of the crowd. Some protestors held up metal barriers and aligned them so as to resist the police, threw various objects at the police, shouted and chanted “Shame!” and other slogans, and whenever the police apprehended someone from among the protestors they attempted to pull them back. The police applied combat techniques and used truncheons.
- At 6.20 p.m., Mr Udaltsov climbed onto the stage at the opposite end of the square to address the meeting. At that time many people were assembled in front of the stage, but, as it turned out, the sound equipment had been disconnected. Mr Udaltsov took a loudspeaker and shouted:
“Dear friends! Unfortunately we have no proper sound, but we will carry on our action, we are not going away because our comrades have been arrested, because tomorrow is the coronation of an illegitimate president. We shall begin an indefinite protest action. You agree? We shall not leave until our comrades are released, until the inauguration is cancelled and until we are given air time on the central television channels. You agree? We are power here! Dear friends, [if] we came out in December  and in March , it was not to put up with the stolen elections, …it was not to see the chief crook and thief on the throne. Today we have no choice – stay here or give the country to crooks and thieves for another six years. I consider that we shall not leave today. We shall not leave!”
- At this point, at 6.21 p.m., several police officers arrested Mr Udaltsov and took him away. Mr Navalnyy attempted to go up onto the stage, but he was also arrested at the stairs and taken away. As he was pushed out by the police officers he turned to the crowd shouting “Nobody shall leave!”
- At 6.25 p.m. the police arrested Mr Nemtsov, who had also attempted to address people from the stage.
- Meanwhile, at the Malyy Kamenny bridge the police continued dividing the crowd and began pushing some sections away from the venue. Through the loudspeakers they requested the participants to leave for the metro station. The dispersal continued for at least another hour until the venue was fully cleared of all protestors.
- The reports of the events of 6 May 2012 and the investigation of the “mass disorder” case
- On 6 May 2012 police colonel Deynichenko, drew up a report summarising the security measures taken on that day in Moscow. The report stated that the march, in which about 8,000 people had participated, had begun at 4.15 p.m. and had followed the route to Bolotnaya Square. It listed the represented groups and organisations, the number of participants in each group, the number and colours of their flags and the number and content of their banners. It further stated as follows:
“…at 5.04 p.m. the organised column… arrived at the [cordon] and expressed the intention to proceed straight to Bolshoy Kamennyy bridge and [to cross it] to Borovitskaya Square. The police… ordered them to proceed to Bolotnaya Square, the venue of the meeting. However, the leaders at the head of the column – [Mr Udaltsov, Mr Nemtsov and Mr Navalnyy] – …called on the marchers through the loudspeaker not to move. Together with some 30 protestors they sat on the ground. Another group of about 20, called by [their leaders], sat as well. The police… repeatedly warned them against holding an unauthorised public gathering and required them to proceed to the venue of the meeting or to leave. Besides that, two State Duma Deputies, Gennadiy Gudkov and Dmitriy Gudkov, the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, and a member of the Civic Chamber Nikolay Svanidze talked to them, but those sitting on the ground did not react and continued chanting slogans… From 5.58 p.m. to 7 p.m. persons on Malyy Kamennyy bridge and Bolotnaya embankment made attempts to break the cordon, threw empty glass bottles, fireworks, chunks of tarmac and portable metal barriers at the police officers. From 5 to 6 p.m. music was playing on the stage… At 5.20 p.m… a deputy of Vologda Regional Duma called on the participants to head to the Malyy Kamennyy bridge to support those sitting on the ground… At 6 p.m. one of the organisers, Ms Mityushkina… went on the stage and announced the meeting closed. At 6.20 p.m. Mr Udaltsov went on the stage and called on the people to take part in an indefinite protest action.
At 7 p.m. a group of about 20 individuals including Ms Mityushkina… attempted to mount three one-sleeper camping tents on Bolotnaya embankment.
From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. necessary measures were taken to push the citizens away from Malyy Kamennyy bridge, Bolotnaya embankment and Bolotnaya Street and to arrest the most actively resisting ones…, during which 28 police officers and military servicemen [sustained injuries] of various gravity, four of which have been hospitalised.
In total, 656 people were detained in Moscow to prevent public disorder and unauthorised demonstrations…
The total number of troops deployed for public order and security duties in Moscow was 12,759 servicemen, including 7,609 police officers, 100 traffic police officers, 4,650 military servicemen and 400 members of voluntary brigades.
As a result of the measures taken by the Interior Department of Moscow the tasks of maintaining public order and security have been completed in full, no emergency events have been allowed.”
- On the same day the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation opened a criminal investigation into the suspected mass disorder and violent acts against the police (Articles 212 § 2 and 318 § 1 of the Criminal Code).
- On 28 May 2012 an investigation was also launched into the criminal offence of organising mass disorder (Article 212 § 1 of the Criminal Code). The two criminal cases were joined on the same day.
- On 22 June 2012 the Investigative Committee set up a group of twenty-seven investigators and put them in charge of the criminal file concerning the events of 6 May 2012.
- On an unspecified date two human-rights activists filed a request with the Investigative Committee to open a criminal investigation into the conduct of the police in the same events; they complained, in particular, of the suppression of a lawful public assembly. Another petition was filed, also on an unspecified date, by forty-four human-rights activists and members of NGOs, calling for the curbing of repression against those arrested and prosecuted in relation to the events of 6 May 2012 and denying that mass riots had taken place at Bolotnaya Square.
- Following the Investigative Committee’s enquiry about publication of the maps of the assembly of 6 May 2012, on 13 August 2012 the Moscow Interior Department replied as follows:
“…on 5 May 2012 the Moscow Interior Department published on its official website… a notice “On safeguarding public order in Moscow during the public events on 6 May”. The notice included information about the route, the map of traffic restrictions and information about the place of the socio-political events, which a large number of participants was expected to attend, the security measures and the warning against any unlawful acts during the events.
The decision to publish this notice was taken by the head of the Department on Liaison with the Mass Media of the Interior Department of Moscow with the aim of ensuring the security of citizens and media representatives planning to take part in the event.
The pictures contained in the notice were schematic and showed the approximate route of the [march] as well as the reference place of the meeting – “Bolotnaya Square” – indicated in the “Plan for Safeguarding Public Order in Moscow on 6 May 2012″.
On 4 May 2012 a working meeting took place at the Moscow Department of Regional Security with the participation of [the organisers and the Interior Department] where they discussed the arrangements for the march…, the placement of metal detectors, the stage set-up and other organisational matters.
After the meeting… the [Moscow Interior Department] prepared a [security plan] and map providing for the park of Bolotnaya Square to be cordoned off with metal barriers [and] for the meeting participants to be accommodated on the road at the Bolotnaya embankment.
Given that the agreement on the route of the demonstration and the meeting venue had been reached at the aforementioned working meeting at 9 p.m. on 4 May 2012, the [security plan] and the security maps were prepared at extremely short notice (during the night of 4th to 5th May 2012 and the day of 5 May 2012), to be approved afterwards, on 5 May 2012, by the senior officials at the Moscow Interior Department.
The Interior Department did not discuss the security maps and [security plan] with the organisers. Those documents were not published as they were for internal use, showing the placement of the police forces… and setting out their tasks.”
- On an unspecified date eight prominent international NGOs set up an international expert commission to evaluate the events at Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 (“the Expert Commission”). The Expert Commission comprised six international experts whose objective was to provide an independent fact-finding and legal assessment of the circumstances in which the demonstration at Bolotnaya Square had been dispersed. In 2013 the Expert Commission produced a 53-page report containing the chronology and an assessment of the events of May 6 2012. It identified the sources used for the report as follows:
“The work the Commission was based on the following materials:
– evidence from the official investigation, reports and statements made by the relevant authorities and any other official information available on the case;
– information from public investigations and observations gathered by human rights defenders, journalists and others; and
– reports by observers and journalists, witness testimony and video materials.
In order to provide an objective and complete picture of the events, the Commission developed a series of questions that it distributed to the city administration of Moscow, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, police authorities in Moscow, the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation and event organisers. Unfortunately the Commission did not receive replies from the city administration, police authorities or Investigative Committee. As a result, the analysis contained in this report is based on information from open sources, including materials presented by the event organisers, observers and non-governmental organisations, materials from public investigations and information provided by defence attorneys engaged in the so-called “Bolotnaya case.” These materials include: eyewitnesses testimony, videos from the media and private actors, documents and some open data about the Bolotnaya criminal case. The experts analysed more than 50 hours of video-records and 200 documents related to the Bolotnaya events. In addition, they met organisers, participants and observers of the events and attended several court hearings of the Bolotnaya case.”
- Concerning the way the assembly of 6 May 2012 was organised, the Expert Commission noted the following:
“…the Moscow Department of Regional Security announced on 4 May  that the event would follow a similar route to the previous rally on 4 February . The participants were to assemble at Kaluzhskaya Square, set off at 4 p.m. along Bolshaya Yakimanka and Bolshaya Polyanka for a rally in Bolotnaya Square, and disperse at 7.30 p.m. The official notification of approval was issued on 4 May 2012 – just two days before the beginning of the event.
That same day, the [Moscow Interior Department] published a plan on its website indicating that all of Bolotnaya Square, including the public gardens, would be given over to the rally, while the Bolshoy Kamenny bridge would be closed to vehicles but would remain open to pedestrians. This was the same procedure [the] authorities had adopted for the two previous rallies on Bolotnaya Square on 10 December 2011 and 4 February 2012.
On the evening of [5 May 2012], the police cordoned off the [park] of Bolotnaya Square. According to Colonel Yuri Zdorenko, who was responsible for security at the location, this was done “in order to prevent the participants from setting up a camp and from other [illegal] acts.” [The] authorities received information [that] the protestors might attempt to establish a protest camp at the site, causing them to decide that the rally should be confined to only the Bolotnaya waterfront area – a much smaller area than had been originally allocated for the assembly.
The police did not, however, inform the organisers of the changes they had decided upon, and they only became aware of the police-imposed changes to the event when they arrived at the site on the afternoon of 6 May .
The City Council did not send out a written announcement that a special representative from the city authorities would be present at the event, nor did the chairman of the Moscow local department of the [Interior], Vladimir Kolokoltsev, issue any special orders on sending a special representative of the Ministry to the event.
The organisers requested 12 hours to set up a stage and sound equipment for the rally; however, on the morning of 6 May, the authorities only allocated six hours of advance access. Furthermore, at 1.30 p.m., the police did not allow vehicles with stage equipment onto the site until they had been searched. The searches revealed a small number of tents, and [the] authorities detained a number of people as a result. The police finally allowed the truck with the stage equipment onto Bolotnaya Square at 2.50 p.m., just 70 minutes before the march was due to begin.”
- As regards the circumstances in which the assembly was dispersed, the Expert Commission’s report stated as follows:
“As the march approached Bolotnaya Square, [the] demonstrators found that a police cordon was blocking off most of the square, leaving only a narrow stretch along the waterfront for the rally. The police established a triple cordon of officers on Bolshoy Kammenyy bridge, which prevented any movement in the direction of the Kremlin. The first cordon was positioned close to the junction of Malyy Kamennyy bridge and the Bolotnaya waterfront. Students from the Police College and officers of the Patrol Guard Service (without any protective equipment) made up this line. Behind them were two rows of [riot police] (OMOН), a line of voluntary citizen patrol (druzhinniki), and another cordon of the OMON [the riot police]. A number of water cannons were visible between the second and third cordons.
[The report contained two photographs comparing the police cordon on 4 February 2012, a thin line of police officers without protection gear, and the one on 6 May 2012, multiple ranks of riot police with full protection gear backed up by heavy vehicles.]
The police cordons, which blocked off movement in the direction of the Kremlin, created a bottleneck that slowed the march’s progress to such an extent that it came to a virtual stop as demonstrators attempted to cross the bridge. Moreover, just beyond Luzhkov bridge, the marchers had to go through a second set of metal detectors, where progress was very slow since there were only 14 detectors.
By 5.15 p.m., the majority of the march was immobile. A number of leaders, including Sergey Udaltsov, Alexey Navalny and Ilya Yashin, encouraged demonstrators to sit down on the road in front of the “Udarnik” cinema facing the police cordon to protest [against] the inability of the march to continue and to demand that they be given access to the originally allocated space for the rally on Bolotnaya Square. An estimated 50 – 200 people joined the sit-down protest. The leaders stressed the need to maintain a peaceful protest and appealed to demonstrators to remain calm. Participants chanted: “We will not go away” and “Police together with the people”. The leaders attempted to address the crowds using loudspeakers, but those behind the sit-down protest could not hear or see events as they transpired. The sit-down protest did not completely block the road, but it did restrict the movement of those approaching the police lines and the bottleneck caused by the police cordon. As a result, the crowd grew denser as more demonstrators arrived from Bolshaya Yakimanka Street.
At 5.42 p.m., the chief of the Moscow Interior Department issued a statement: “The organizers of the rally and other participants refuse to proceed to the agreed place of the rally (to Bolotnaya Square). They [have] stopped on the roadway near the “Udarnik” theatre. Some of them [have] sat on the ground and thus blocked the movement of the column. Despite repeated warnings on the part of the police to proceed to the place of the rally, they won’t move thereby creating a real threat of a jam and trauma for the participants. An inquiry commission is working on the spot to document their actions related to appeals to commit mass public disorder with a view to further consider the issue of instituting criminal proceedings.”
Some demonstrators appeared to become frustrated with standing and waiting and began to walk away. Some tried to pass through the police cordon to leave the area, but the police refused to let them through. Instead, they were directed to go back through the crowd to Bolshaya Polyanka Street, even though this was practically impossible.
The police used loud speakers to inform demonstrators of the rally location. They asked participants to pass directly to Bolotnaya Square and not stop at the bridge, despite the fact that the major part of the square was closed to demonstrators. They announced that all actions on the bridge could be considered illegal. However, given the poor quality of the sound equipment, only those nearest the police could hear this information; the majority of protesters did not hear the police instructions.
From the moment difficulties first arose for demonstrators attempting to cross Malyy Kammenyy bridge, demonstrators made repeated attempts to negotiate with the police over moving their cordons to allow protesters onto Bolotnaya Square.
Dmitry Oreshkin, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and Member of Parliament Gennady Gudkov tried to talk to the police authorities at around 5.30 p.m., but there was no response. Shortly after participants broke through the police cordon at 6.20 p.m., a group of human rights activists spoke to Colonel Birukov, head of the Moscow Interior Department’s press service. At 7 p.m., Member of Parliament Ilya Ponomarev tried to stop violence during the clashes on the embankment by speaking to the authorities, but he did not get a positive response.
Many of those involved in organising the event stated that they tried to engage with [the] police throughout the day to ensure the event took place in a peaceful manner.
Nadezhda Mityushkina: “I tried unsuccessfully to find the responsible people in the Ministry of the [Interior] in order to solve the organisational problems. I knew whom to contact in case we needed help when issues arose… Only at 6 – 6.30 p.m. did a police officer approach me. I knew from previous demonstrations that he was a senior officer responsible for communication with event organisers… and he told me that the authorities had suspended the demonstration. He told me, as one of the rally organizers, to announce from the stage that the event was over, which I did following our conversation.”
Igor Bakirov: “A police officer in a colonel’s uniform contacted me only once, and I showed him the documents confiming my credentials as an event organiser. Later clashes with the police erupted, I couldn’t find anyone with whom to communicate and cooperate.”
Sergey Davidis: “I personally did not meet nor have time to get into contact with the authorities regarding the fences set up around the perimeter of the rally. I assumed some other organisers had already spoken to the authorities regarding this issue or were speaking with them at that time. There was no one to contact and nothing to talk about. I only saw the OMON officers who behaved aggressively and were not predisposed to get into a conversation.