Bolsheviks Storm Russian Railways

APNational Bolshevik members burning flares in the windows of Russian Railways' Moscow headquarters on Monday.
A dozen activists from the banned National Bolshevik Party were detained Monday after storming the central Moscow headquarters of Russian Railways in support of an independent rail union.

The 12 activists broke into the company's headquarters on Novaya Basmannaya Ulitsa at around 11:30 a.m. and proceeded to light flares, unfurl a banner and hurl leaflets out of the building's windows before they were rounded up by police 30 minutes later, National Bolshevik spokesman Alexander Averin said.

They demanded higher wages for rail workers, improved safety conditions and an end to discrimination against members of the independent Russian Trade Union of Locomotive Brigades, the National Bolshevik web site said.

Averin said they barricaded themselves inside the office of Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin and handed him a pamphlet with their demands, a claim Russian Railways, or RZD, denied.

"They came into the building and managed to get into several unlocked rooms," company spokesman Sergei Slutsko said. "They tried to break through to the windows and hang banners, but they were immediately held by the security guards."

Photographs published on the National Bolshevik web site and by The Associated Press showed that the activists did manage to hang a banner out the window.

Yakunin told a news conference Monday afternoon that "[M]y office is working just fine, as is RZD in general," Interfax reported.

"According to police, the case has been handed over to prosecutors," Yakunin said.

It was unclear what, if anything, the protesters were charged with. A spokesman for the city police's central district branch said the activists were being held at the Krasnoselskoye precinct but that he had no other information.

Yakunin linked the independent rail union to the protest, saying its chairman, Yevgeny Kulikov, thanked the activists, Interfax reported.

Deputy union head Dmitry Rusinovich-Rusak denied that the union had coordinated the protest with the National Bolsheviks.

"We never take part in such protests because they are illegal," Rusinovich-Rusak said. "If they committed any illegal actions, they should be held accountable."

The union held a sanctioned picket outside RZD headquarters last month to protest the suspension of rail workers in Siberia. In April, the union organized a short strike that Yakunin said was illegal.

Police found a press pass among the belongings of one of the detained activists that identified him as the press secretary of SotsProf, an umbrella group of independent labor unions, Slutsko said.

The protest echoed a December 2004 stunt by 39 National Bolsheviks who were arrested after briefly seizing the reception of the presidential administration building. Eight were subsequently handed jail sentences of 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 years after being convicted of participating in mass disorder.