Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A G8 summit has been planned to take place from 15-17 July in St Petersburg, Russia. Several sources have reported that a systematic police crackdown on people participating in alternative meetings (a Libertarian Forum and the Russian Social Forum) and critical of the official meeting has begun almost a week prior to the summit. Estimates range from dozens to one or two hundred arrests and detentions.

For the past several years, especially since the 27th G8 summit in 2001 in Genoa, the G8 summits of the leaders of seven of the world’s richest industrialised countries and of Russia have been regularly met by popular protests by critics who assert that members of G8 are responsible for global issues such as global warming due to carbon dioxide emission, poverty in Africa and developing countries due to debt crisis and unfair trade policy, exacerbating the AIDS crisis by medicine patent policy and other problems that are related to globalization. These protests have been met by massive numbers of arrests and police violence, on some occasions.

In contrast to previous G8 meetings, this time arrests have been taking place a week before the official meeting itself has started. At least 23-25 human rights activists and political activists, including two German citizens, have been detained by police in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities in Russia since 7 July. Many of them have been sentenced to ten days’ imprisonment, enough to prevent them from participation in political protests until the end of the official summit.

Some sources claim that the true detention rate may be much higher, such as an unconfirmed report attributed to the Siberian Confederation of Labour (????????? ???????????? ?????) claiming 200 arrests. The activists’ legal team claims that more than 100 arrests and detainments have occurred.

Discussions on global energy issues and other themes have started at the Libertarian Forum despite the arrests, and the Russian Social Forum is expected to start on schedule on 13 July, followed by the official G8 meeting on 15-17 July. Permission to carry out a street demonstration by the Russian Social Forum has been refused by the authorities.

Russian authorities say that demonstrations are permitted, but only in the location set aside for them – a sports stadium about 25 km (16 miles) from the Constantine Palace, which will house the summit. The Russian Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin said that allegations of harassment were “from the realms of supposition”.

“The police’s actions are commensurate with the situation at hand. The situation demands particular measures, sometimes intensified. Sometimes it demands that we visit a family in their apartment,” He said.

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