Members of the high-profile artist group VOINA were attacked and arrested by police along with close to 100 other participants at Strategy-31 protests in Moscow on Thursday. Article 31 of the Russian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly, but in practice – as Friday’s violent actions attest – Russian police often respond harshly towards critics of the Russian government. Friday’s event is being described as one of the largest ever Strategy-31 protests, suggesting that the movement is gathering momentum.
Oleg Vorotnikov, Leonid Nikolaev and Natalia Sokol with her son Kasper (members of VOINA) were arrested and, according to their spokesperson, denied access to legal representation. Oleg was later released. According to their lawyer Dimitri Dinze, Oleg was beaten severely while in custody and says that Leonid and Natalia have also been beaten.
Leonid and Natalia are being detained and accused of obstructing police and violating traffic rules.
Strategy-31 is a spontaneous protest movement that began in 2009 in cities across Russia. Rallies are held on the 31st day of months that have 31 days to draw attention to Article 31 of the Russian constitution which guarantees the right of peaceful assembly. Rallies have also been held in cities around the world in solidarity. Eduard Limonov and Konstantin Kosyakin, two key organizers of Strategy-31 protests in Moscow, were also arrested on Friday.