At the beginning of picket against republican law, limiting compensation for child day care centers, Komsomolskaya Square in Ukhta reminded a playground, which brought together several dozens of parents with children in strollers and sledding. Volunteers handed out posters and collected signatures under the appeal to the president, and others simply spoke to each other.
One of the organizers of the protest, civic activist Egor Russky, climbed into a huge snowdrift, which became a makeshift platform and said that decision of national authorities to take the law 144 was "kind of a sabotage of the state policy" as, in his opinion and 'according to lawyers and the Ministry of education', it was contrary to the Constitution.
According to Russky, organizers invited deputies of the State Council of Komi and city council of Ukhta, but none of them came.
'Party "United Russia", which talked about support of families with many children six months ago, made its choice. Sergey Gaplikov [head of the Komi] who came here and conducted public hearings, introduced the bill and by his own decision cancelled two points of his own program. We must show our opinion — activist called and offered everyone to speak.
First Secretary of the Ukhta Communist Party City Committee Valery Kharchenko recommended that republican officials refuse bribes. He said that thanks to a new formula for calculating compensation republic would save 50-60 million rubles, and the average bribe in the republic was 700 thousand rubles. So, he concluded that officials needed to make a little effort and decline a small amount of bribes to collect the required amount.
'They sent us a new leader, we expected a new reformer, new Stolypin – "Olimpstroy" and so on. A year later, there were promises – let's do that, let's elect! They promised cucumber paradise, development, a lot of things. Elected! Today, it turns out that there are no money, so they got to budget again and reached the children,' Kharchenko said.
Half an hour after the beginning of the picket much more people with children appeared in the square, more than a hundred of people. Some parents have organized an improvised kindergarten, where they played with the kids while the other moms and dads listened to the speakers.
'If we had paid five thousand for child center, now we will pay seven thousand – difference of two thousand that our government wants to put in its pocket, take these two thousand it from my children, what an absolute disgrace!' mother of many children Victoria said emotionally. 'These funds are very important to us, we could spend it on education, on additional activities, educational events, even buy candies to children! And our government wants to put them in its pocket! I urge all concerned to collect signatures and to convey to the Government of the Republic of Komi that we refuse giving the money! This is our children's money!'
Other protester Yekaterina told how the law has affected the income of her family:
'We currently do not meet the need criterion, even though my husband's wages were cut. This is due to the fact that he had some kind of awards – and we barely went beyond [the need criterion – families whose per capita income is less than 1.5 subsistence minimum are recognized needy in Ukhta]. We have a mortgage, a small car loan... I mean it hits us in the wallet seriously! Children go to additional activities – so now we have to refuse, and other times we won't buy them fruits. It is terrible that our officials have formulated federal law to suit themselves and decided to curtail our rights even more.'
At this time the police detained a drone operator, who shoot the picket, behind a snowdrift platform. According to the policeman, who declined to present himself, a staff member of the Federal Security Service ordered him to detain a young man. Protesters responded to the detention by shouting "Shame!".
At the same moment a policewoman approached to the police chief.
'There's a poster, "Return a thief, take an asshole back!". We must take measures!’ she said excitedly. Law enforcement officers went to the suspicious posters.
When «7x7» asked the police what exactly confused them in the poster, the staff could not answer. The organizer of the picket Russky told the police that the word "asshole" was not a swear one, and if someone thought that it was addressed personally to him and insulted – then that person would be able to appeal to the police officers.
'Well, generally everything is ok,' policewoman looked around. Next poster that intrigued the police had a drawing – elongated oval located on two circles, which had a face that looked like face of the head of the Komi Sergei Gaplikov, and the words "Strong economic man". Russky explained that he saw Tsar Cannon there. The police agreed with this interpretation.
'All the posters were agreed with the lawyers. If someone thinks up some symbols – it's his problem. They don't right to take your posters,' activist instructed picketers. The participants decided to send the posters to 'Gaplikov to Syktyvkar in parcel'.
Performances continued, the degree of perturbation of speakers has increased significantly. Organizer of the picket Egor Russky took his word again and said that 'no one came to the republic the way Gaplikov did'. Before the adoption of the law, he said, there was no public discussion and no one took into account the opinion of citizens, and residents should remember about this fact during the next elections:
'This day should be a black page to the next elections. We will recall that the members of the party "United Russia" voted for this law, so that they would not take part in the next calling. These people today are just traitors, traitors to the people who elected them!
'Things will always be the same with Putin, we will vote for crooks and thieves, as we have in Komi! We will continue to live this way!' unknown elderly man climbed onto the snowdrift and elicited applause.
The next speaker concretized claims and addressed them personally to a head of the republic Gaplikov.
'Remember, Gaplikov hung on every corner? Prior to that, comrade Gaizer also promised a lot. With this law he hit the children, a sore spot. What did he achieve? Authority? Respect? We have to ask the United Russia, the party that took the law – I understand that they do not care – but what about children? Is that normal? How do they live now? I do not understand! Probably, they are not going to live in the country! They put a tick today, the day passed, they received a salary, and everything was normal, let the children wait in a corner. We must ask Gaplikov and all the top and all the vertical!' man said.
We have to ask the United Russia, the party that took the law – I understand that they do not care – but what about children? Is that normal? How do they live now?
Then the audience was urged to sign the appeal to President Vladimir Putin for the abolition of the 144th republican law, and the picket ended.
In December, 2016, Republic head Sergei Gaplikov introduced a draft law on the introduction of need criterion in the provision of compensation for visiting child day care centers in the State Council of the Komi. The majority of deputies voted for it. On February 1, 2017 only those parents will receive compensations for attending child day care centers whose average income does not exceed 1.5 subsistence minimum. Before that families could expect compensation at a rate of 20% for one child, 50% for the second and 70% for the third child.
Vladimir Prokushev, photos by Sofia Krapotkina, «7x7»