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Fourteen victims of fire-struck village arrested in Makhachkala protest

14 November 2017
Mokok after the August 2016 fire (/yuga.ru)

Fourteen people were arrested during a rally in Makhachkala’s central square on 13 November; they were demanding a meeting with the acting head of the republic concerning a fire last year in their village. Police used a tear gas while dispersing the rally.

A major fire hit the village of Mokok in Daghestan’s Tsunta District on 21 August 2016, after old wiring short circuited due to strong winds, setting fire to hay. The fire spread to neighbouring houses in a matter of minutes.

The fire engulfed 83 houses in the village, leaving around 700 people without houses. The victims have been fighting for compensation since then, but so far without result.

‘Unauthorised rally’

On 13 November, a number of victims of the fire came to Makhachkala and gathered at the central square, calling for a meeting with acting Head of Daghestan Vladimir Vasilyev. Several men held single-man protests to avoid Russia’s laws against ‘unauthorised rallies’, standing some distance from each other holding signs. Others stood in a group nearby.

According to the law, the distance between people holding one-man protests must be at least 50 metres to avoid being considered an unauthorised rally.

One of the protesters told OC Media that police began dispersing them after the men with posters stood together for journalists to film them. After a scuffle broke out between police and protesters, police began detaining the men, while the women attempted to stop them.

‘Our people stood together to be photographed, and for police officers, this was a provocation. They began to disperse people’, Magоmed Abdulayev, one of the protesters told OC Media.

‘One of the detainees needed medical assistance. He is at home now but still has difficulty seeing’, Abdulayev said, blaming the police’s use of tear gas.

Fourteen people were detained and taken to the Sovetsky District Police Station. The following day, Makhachkala’s Sovetsky District Court issued warnings for ‘participating in an unauthorised rally’, but released all the detainees without imposing any fines.

According to Magomed Abdulayev, in a meeting of residents of Mokok on 14 November, villagers decided to return to Makhachkala’s central square to demand a meeting the acting head of the republic. If their demands are not met, they say they will go on hunger strike.