Russian officials ban toy “demonstrators” from protesting because they’re not citizens


When a group of toy "demonstrators" stood in the snow in Barnaul, Russia a month ago holding banners protesting corruption and electoral malpractice, officials were stumped. 

But when the mayor of the Siberian city received a petition about another protest, this time featuring 100 Kinder Surprise toys, 100 Lego people, 20 model soldiers, 15 soft toys and 10 toy cars, he knew what to do: reject it. 

The reason? The toys are not citizens of Russia, The Guardian reported

"As you understand, toys, especially imported toys, are not only not citizens of Russia but they are not even people," Andrei Lyapunov, a spokesman for Barnaul, told local media.

"Objects expected to be used must be viewed just like signs and banners, strictly as a means of visual propaganda used by participants, but not as the participants themselves," Sergei Andreyev, local head of elections watchdog Golos, told The Moscow Times, quoting the official refusal.

More from GlobalPost: Watchdog group Golos accuses Putin of fresh election violations

Olga Fotiyeva, an activist, told BBC News the demonstration was intended to highlight a "violation of the right, under Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution, freely to hold peaceful meetings and demonstrations." 

International observers, as well as Russian opposition activists, voiced concern about reports of ballot-stuffing and other electoral malpractice during December's parliamentary poll, which was won by Vladimir Putin's United Russia, BBC reported. Putin insisted the parliamentary results were valid.

Tens of thousands of Russians have attended protests in recent weeks; many are urban professionals connected through online social networks, according to BBC.

Andreyev said that activists will still hold the toy protest this weekend, if they can think of a lawful way to do so, according to the Times.

More from GlobalPost: Russian protests draw tens of thousands to central Moscow

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