Greenpeace campaigner Dima Litvinov, first of imprisoned protesters to be freed, tells of relief at leaving Russia
The first environmental activist to leave Russia after more than two months of detention said that Russia owed him a medal rather than a pardon for his work to protect the environment.
Dima Litvinov, a Greenpeace campaigner, was the first member of the Arctic 30 to be allowed to leave. His fellow activists are expected to leave Russia in the coming days.
He told the Guardian of his relief at leaving Russia and arriving in Finland. “In Finland, it’s completely relaxed and welcoming. My last memory of Russia is the border police woman who told me I should not be proud of myself. ‘Why don’t you do these things in the United States?’ she asked. I said that I do and she said, ‘Why don’t you stay there?”
Litvinov was one of 30 people who were arrested in September after a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig and spent two months in jail before being granted bail in November.
Hooliganism charges were dropped after Russia’s parliament passed an amnesty law that was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin to assuage criticism of the country’s human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
Speaking from a train to Helsinski, Litvinov said the Arctic 30 had been warmly received by ordinary Russians, but treated as criminals intent on destroying Russia by government officials. “They saw us as criminals involved in a conspiracy against Russia. They say that we are trying to push Russia from its rightful place on the Arctic shelf,” he said.
Litvinov is the fourth generation of his family to be imprisoned in Russia for political activity. His great-grandfather Maxim Litvinov opposed Tsar Nicholas II before being made Soviet foreign minister. His grandfather Lev Kopelev was imprisoned by Stalin for 10 years for opposing the regime and speaking out against Soviet atrocities against German civilians in the second world war. Lev was imprisoned with his friend Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and was the inspiration for the main character in Solzhenitsyn’s novel First Circle. In 1968, Dima’s father, Pavel Litvinov, was one of seven people who protested against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in Red Square, for which he was sentenced to internal exile in Siberia when Dima was six years old. The family left Russia when he was 11 and Litvnov now holds US and Swedish nationality.
He said that he was surprised to be released, especially as he was interrogated on Christmas Eve, but remained angry at his treatment. “They do not owe me an amnesty, they owe me an apology. They owe me a medal for trying to save the Russian environment,” he said, “The amnesty is just a way for the authorities to save face but we are still described as violent criminals that the Duma, in its magnanimity, is willing to pardon, which is really irksome.”
Litvinov was given his passport with an exit visa stamped in it on Thursday, along with a letter explaining that the authorities had decided not to prosecute him for illegally entering the country. “That was incredible. We were taken in international waters and forcibly taken to Russia. I collected my bag and said goodbye to my friends and got on the train to Helsinki,” he said.
Litvinov was released on 22 November after six weeks in prison in Murmansk and two weeks in St Petersburg. Freedom was pleasant but limited, he said.
“It was freedom of sorts, but it was really just a much more comfortable prison cell. We had to attend regular interrogations. We could only stay in the hotel and we could not leave the city. There was the same psychological pressure as prison, the lack of knowledge, the sense of injustice,” he said.
Litvinov expected to meet his wife in Helsinki and spend a night there before taking a ferry to Sweden for a holiday before returning to campaigning.
“I’m going to decompress and enjoy the rest of Christmas, but after that it’s back to work. The Arctic has still not been saved and there’s a lot to be done,” he said.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
US planning to slash troops in Germany: report
US President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to slash the number of troops it maintains in Germany by more than a quarter in the coming months, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The newspaper said the Defense Department would cut the number of military personnel by 9,500 from the current 34,500 permanently assigned to Germany postings.
The Journal also said a cap of 25,000 would be set on how many US troops could be inside German at any one time, whether in permanent postings or temporary rotations, half of the current allowance.
The move would significantly reduce the US commitment to European defense under the NATO umbrella, though it could also impact Pentagon operations related to Africa and the Middle East.
Manhattan DA announces protesters arrested by NYPD will not be charged: ‘Our office has a moral imperative’
The Manhattan District Attorney announced on Friday that his office would not be prosecuting protesters arrested for low-level crimes.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. announced that Unlawful Assembly and Disorderly Conduct would not be prosecuted during the demonstrations over police violence.
"“The prosecution of protestors charged with these low-level offenses undermines critical bonds between law enforcement and the communities we serve. Days after the killing of George Floyd, our nation and our city are at a crossroads in our continuing endeavor to confront racism and systemic injustice wherever it exists. Our office has a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime. We commend the thousands of our fellow New Yorkers who have peacefully assembled to demand these achievable aims, and our door is open to any New Yorker who wishes to be heard," Vance said in a statement.
Chicago Police Board president files complaint alleging he was struck 5 times by cops at George Floyd protest
On Friday, WTTW reported that Ghian Foreman, the president of the Chicago Police Board, has filed a complaint alleging he was beaten in the legs five times by police officers at a protest against the killing of George Floyd last Sunday.
The Chicago Police Board is an independent civilian commission that has power over police disciplinary cases.
"Foreman filed a complaint with the Citizens Office of Police Accountability alleging that he was struck by at least one officer during a protest sparked by the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, said Ephraim Eaddy, a spokesperson for the agency," said the report. "Foreman’s complaint, which identifies the officer Foreman said struck him, is one of 344 complaints of police misconduct filed with COPA between midnight May 29 and 7 a.m. Friday, Eaddy said. The complaint itself is confidential."