Tag Archives: police abuse in Russia

Seva Ostapov: Convicted of the Crime of Being Beaten by the Police

We have posted on the ridiculous case of Vsevolod “Seva” Ostapov on two previous occasions. Yesterday, February 17, the whole ugly story came to a (we hope, temporary) conclusion in a Moscow court. Below, you’ll find translations of some of the coverage in the non-state-controlled press. We begin, however, with a short video by Grani-TV.Ru filmed outside and inside the Moscow courthouse where Seva was handed a one-year suspended sentence for the crime of being savagely beaten by the police. Seva himself, his lawyer, his parents, and his defenders share their impressions of the trial before and after the sentencing. The video also includes brief footage of the judge reading out the verdict. (In Russian)

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The Preobrazhensky District Court in Moscow has sentenced Vsevolod Ostapov, a student at the Russian Peoples’ Friendship University (RUDN), to a one-year suspended sentence after finding him guilty of assaulting a police officer. Ostapov has announced that he will appeal the court’s decision, which “completely aped the version [of events advanced by police] investigators.”

On April 4, 2008, seven young men were severely beaten at the Sokolniki police precinct after they had been detained outside the Sokolniki metro station. Police used billy clubs and electric shockers while making the arrest, and the young men were likewise beaten at the police station. Among those beaten was RUDN student Vsevolod Ostapov. In August 2009 he was charged with assaulting a police officer. After the case was sent back to investigators four times for reinvestigation, it was sent to the Preobrazhensky District Court for trial.

The case against the police officers, which was reopened on June 28, 2008, was closed in the summer of 2009 for “lack of evidence.” Despite the testimony of medics, the young men who were beaten figured in the case only as witnesses, not as victims, and the police investigator was unable to establish the identities of the policemen who, allegedly, beat them.

On February 11, 2010, it was announced that the Directorate for Internal Security of the Moscow Chief Directorate for Internal Affairs [i.e., the police] had begun a new inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the beating of the young men at the Sokolniki precinct. On February 10, the victims were suddenly summoned to give testimony. According to [Ostapov’s] lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov, “This gives us hope that the new leadership of the Internal Affairs Directorate and the Directorate for Internal Security intend to clean out the Augean stables of lawlessness and impunity in Moscow.”

Earlier, Alexander Bastyrkin, chair of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor’s Office cancelled the official refusal to open a criminal investigation into the beating of the young men by officers at the Sokolniki police precinct. He not only ordered that the investigation be reopened, but also that those guilty of “multiple unfounded processual decisions” be subjected to disciplinary actions.

Mobile phone footage of police detaining Vsevolod Ostapov and his friends on April 4, 2008, outside the Sokolniki metro station in Moscow


Journalists and civil rights activists have been following this widely publicized case. It all began on the evening of April 4, 2008, outside the Sokolniki metro station, when two beat cops approached 18-year-old Vsevolod Ostapov and attempted to arrest him for drinking beer. The young man felt that he had done nothing wrong and attempted to convince the policemen that he had not disturbed the peace. When his friends came to Ostapov’s defense, the policemen called in reinforcements. The young people were handcuffed, driven to the precinct, and beaten. They filed charges against the policemen, but in September of last year the criminal investigation was closed.


In an interview with Radio Svoboda, Ostapov again denied any wrongdoing on his own part.

“I think that this sentence is evidence of lawlessness on the part of the court. A court like this can only be called a kangaroo court: I was convicted of a crime I did not commit.”

Vsevolod Ostapov’s lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov has already announced that they will be appealing the sentence in the time prescribed by the law.

“We believe that today’s conviction of Vsevolod Ostapov, who has been sentenced by the court to a one-year suspended sentence and one year of probation, is illegal, baseless, and unjust. The court simply ignored the testimony of the defense witnesses: twenty or so people saw what happened on April 4, 2008, between the policemen and Vsevolod Ostapov outside the Sokolniki metro station. These witnesses confirmed that it was the police officers who initiated this conflict.”

According to specialists, the low level of the work of police investigators is evident. Sergei Zamoshkin, a lawyer and director of the Anti-Abuse Center, believes that the sentence and the crime with which Ostapov was charged lend support to the argument that he is innocent.

“Courts don’t give such light sentences for acts of violence against state officials. The relevant article of the [Criminal Code] stipulates a maximum five-year sentence. This gives us grounds to say that such an insignificant punishment is irrefutable proof of an absence of guilt on the part of the defendant. This is a quite traditional practice in our legal system when neither investigators nor the court find any evidence of guilt but don’t have the strength to admit this. But we need to understand that in and of itself our legal system allows the mistakes of investigators to be covered up in this way.”

Yevgeny Chernousov believes that the Vsevolod Ostapov case sets a dangerous precedent, especially in the context of recent crimes involving police officers.

“A dangerous precedent is set when even given such a large number of witnesses the court takes the side of two beat cops. What are the residents of Russia supposed to do in this situation? How are you supposed to go out on the street if a policeman can approach you and make unlawful demands, but there are no witnesses present?! This decision unties the hands of the police.”


Outraged by the unjust conviction of Vsevolod Ostapov, today, February 17, around seventy anarchists and other members of the Movement Against Police Lawlessness, carried out an unsanctioned protest action.

At around 7:10 p.m. the demonstrators began their march on Lubyanka Square, blocking traffic and chanting “Close Sokolniki Police Precinct”; “The People United Will Never Be Divided”; “Raise High the Black Flag, the State Is the Main Enemy”; “Say No to Police Lawlessness”, and other slogans. The demonstrators carried banners that read “No to Lawlessness,” “We Demand the Closure of Sokolniki Precinct,” and “Today It’s Seva, and Tomorrow?” They lit flares and tossed smoke grenades on the road in front of them.

Approximately ten minutes later the marchers descended into the metro and traveled to the site of the sad events of April 4, 2008. After exiting Sokolniki metro station, the marchers blocked Stromynka Street for several minutes. They added the chant “All Cops Are Yevsyukovs” to their cries. Soon, however, police cars began to surround them. Around fifteen people were taken into custody, including [three] journalists.

By 11:00 p.m. all the detainees had been released. All of them (except for the three journalists) were charged with a misdemeanor under Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code (violation of rules for picketing.)

On February 14, anarchists in Petersburg carried out a theatrical Shrovetide (Maslenitsa) performance in solidarity with Seva Ostapov. See Sergey Chernov’s complete photo reportage of the action here.


Filed under film and video, protests, Russian society

One Sixth of a Revanchist Planet

The brilliance of revanchism in its early twenty-first century incarnation is its universal ambition to terrify the populace into self-discipline and compliance. But it does not do so equally or evenly. Some are targets of bombs and bombers, while others use security systems to fortify their houses and airports against them. Some are permanently subject to arrest, torture and rape even while innocent, while others inveigh with ontological spleen against Muslims, Jews, strikers, workers, immigrants, women. Those carrying out the bombings, rapes and torture in the name of anti-terrorism are generally the ones who get to fortify themselves, or at least they fall on the same side of the political equation, while those bombed are the ones most likely to be attacked in their homes. Whether one is revanchist or recipient has everything to do with existing power structures including especially, but by no means exclusively, class. I emphasize class here because although the contours of the revanchist city are fairly well discussed, the class aspects of more global conflicts are not, and need to be revealed. The war on terrorism is, like the revanchist city, a war of the rich against the poor, in which the poor often dies.

— Neil Smith, “Revanchist Planet: Regeneration and the Axis of Co-Evilism”

United Russia promises to hold thousands-strong demonstrations against terror in both capitals

On Wednesday, December 2, United Russia will hold thousands-strong demonstrations in Moscow and Petersburg under the slogan “Russian against terror!” the party’s press service has informed Zaks.Ru.

The events will begin at 3:00 p.m. In Moscow, the United Russians will assemble on Poklonnaya Gora, while in Petersburg they will gather on Sennaya Ploshchad. Participants in both capitals will be connected by a direct video link.

“We are profoundly outraged by the barbarous act of violence whose victims were civilians. Society has been challenged once again. Russian citizens have been victims of terror on more than one occasion. And there is no doubt that such inhuman actions should not go unpunished. Today all of Russian society must unite in the struggle with terrorism,” reads the text on the website of the party’s Moscow branch.

Smolny orders residence checks for children traveling in the metro

The Petersburg administration has amended its decree on “On the Travel Regime of Children and Young People on Municipal Public Transportation.” According to the amendment, ticket inspectors in the metro and ground transport have the right to demand documents from children and accompanying adult verifying the child’s age and place of residence.

Moscow Fans Hit by Mass Arrests on Way to Stadium

Hundreds of football fans were arrested and many reportedly beaten by the OMON special-task police in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

A large group of supporters of Spartak Football Club fans who came to St. Petersburg to see the Moscow football club play against the local team, Zenit Football Club, on the final day of the Russian Premier League season was on its way to Petrovsky stadium on the Petrograd Side when the OMON police started making large-scale arrests. The fans were detained just before the stadium, on the Tuchkov Bridge that connects Vasilyevsky Island to the Petrograd Side.

One Moscow politician protested what he called “illegal mass detentions” in an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev, while the Russian Football Fans Association (VOB) said it would gather evidence and pass it to the Interior Ministry for investigation.

YouTube video footage shows helmet-wearing camouflaged officers dragging young men and women, many of whom appear to be teenagers, out of the crowd. An officer dragging a young man is shown to knee him in the stomach, while another officer passing by hits the same young man with his baton across the chest. A girl who was carrying a drum is shown lying on the ground with policemen dragging and kicking her.

From 400 to 600 people were detained on the spot, according to various estimates. The police said 400 fans were detained and charged with disorderly conduct and the violation of public events regulations, while 24 more, including seven Zenit fans, were detained inside the stadium during and after the game and charged with disorderly conduct. The police said pepper sprays, brass knuckles, sharpened metal bars and flares were confiscated, Interfax reported.

Anton Orekh: “Our Work Is Dangerous and Harmful”

I believe that it will come to war. Until now it was an occupation, but now there will be war. If you had a look only at certain newspapers and websites for just the past week, you would have found out  the details of [lawyer Sergei] Magnitsky’s death; how three drunken cops beat a guy to death in Moscow; how in Petersburg the cops also killed a passerby and beat up a well-known artist. Also, a cop who got tired of waiting in line at a health clinic just took out his pistol and opened fire!

I didn’t read all the papers from cover to cover. I didn’t study the Internet from end to end or sit in front of the TV or radio following all the news bulletins. All these cases are just the ones that surfaced. How many people suffered from police ugliness only over the past week? And how many have suffered during the previous weeks, months, and years? Only an army occupying enemy territory would behave this way.

But now I expect a war. I don’t known whether it will be a civil war or a guerilla war. What else can you expect after the country’s head policeman gave citizens permission to hit the police? Up until now police officers were absolutely untouchable. They could do whatever they liked. Drunk or sober, acting lawfully or abusing their powers, they always turned out right. Even Yevsyukov’s situation is not so hopeless. You just wait and see: he will get out of prison while still a young man. The essentially bandit-like existence of the police is based precisely on this impunity, on the freedom to do what one wants with someone else’s life. It’s like a joke: here is a pistol, sink or swim. It is terrifying to imagine what will happen if citizens are even given the hypothetical right to give as good as they get.

[…] After Andrei Makarov proposed “liquidating” the Interior Ministry, I was on the air the following morning discussing the [State Duma] deputy’s speech with my colleagues. Listeners sent us SMSes. You cannot imagine what they were like! We couldn’t quote 90% of them [on air]: they were a steady stream of foul language and loathing! Makarov proposed reducing police personnel by half, and we asked [listeners] what to do with the other half. The most tempting proposal was to send them to the Far East to work in casinos. In the main, listeners [proposed giving laid-off police officers] the most dirty and humiliating jobs — as janitors, ditch diggers, and male prostitutes.

Fear and loathing: such are the emotions that the police arouses amongst the vast majority of our fellow citizens. I say “vast” because 96% of our listeners voted on air for the liquidation of the Interior Ministry. People believe that it would be better to have no police than to have the police we have now or a reformed police. That is, the police are a public enemy. How has it come to this, that society’s principal defenders have become its principal enemies?


We live in a country where the authorities formally have the absolute support of the populace. The country is not threatened with territorial collapse. And yet all the preconditions for a war are present: a war of the people against the police.

Alexander Cherkasov, Memorial:

Kidnappings, torture, murders, concealment of the bodies of kidnap victims: this system has been functioning in Chechnya for almost ten years now. At first, federal security forces engaged in such things. Then the authority to commit unlawful violence was transferred to the local security forces.

According to our data, from three to five thousand people fell victim to this system. Practically no one has been punished for this. There was a single, widely publicized case when a person who was guilty of kidnapping and torture (and, most likely, was also involved in the murder and disappearance of Chechens) was judged for his crimes. This was the so-called Cadet Case, in which Sergei Lapin, a police officer from Nizhnevartovsk, was sentenced to eleven years in prison.

The Cadet Case was made possible by three people: Natasha Estemirova, who worked in Grozny; Anna Politkovskaya, who published articles about it; and Stanislav Markelov, the lawyer who managed the trial in such a way that Lapin was unable to appeal the verdict. All three of them are no longer among the living. Think about it! Against thousands of kidnappings and disappearances (which in fact also involved torture and murders) one or, well, a handful of sentenced criminals. This is a system of organized impunity.

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Seva Ostapov Case to Go to Court


Seva Ostapov: Dangerous Russian Criminal?

Seva Ostapov: Dangerous Russian Criminal?

 [See our first post on this case.]



The website of the Institute for Collective Action (IKD) reports that Moscow student Vsevolod (“Seva”) Ostapov has been formally charged with assaulting police officers and that his case has been sent to the courts for trial. 

This is the case that grew out of the April 4, 2008, incident at the Sokolniki metro station. The police attacked a group of young people there, beating several of them in the process. Many of these same young people were detained and the beatings continued at the Sokolniki police station. In order to cover up their abuses, right from the beginning the police began to cook up a case against Seva, alleging that he had attacked police officers. Dozens of witnesses have testified that this was not the case, but in our country the powers that be know how to stitch together even such an unpromising case. So now the case has been sent to the Preobrazhensky District Court, which must now set a date for a preliminary hearing within the month. 

Moreover, the case against the policemen who tortured the young people, which was opened in 2008, was quietly sabotaged and closed in August 2009. Protests led investigators to reopen the case on September 14, 2009, but they extended the period of investigation for only one month. That month ran out yesterday [i.e., October 14], and once again we hear nothing about prosecuting the police officers for their crimes.

The Sokolniki case, which began as a brutal beating (cf. my first post on the topic, which was published in the early hours of April 5), inspired a powerful protest campaign. During that campaign, OMON riot police in Moscow dispersed a legally sanctioned picket against police abuse on April 11, 2008. A week later, young protesters carried out a totally unsanctioned march down Tverskaya (Moscow’s main street) from Pushkin Square to the Belorussia Station. (You can see photos of that march here and here; and videos here and here.) 

There were more actions in Moscow in May 2008, and then the wave of solidarity actions spread to other Russian cities. A year later, in summer 2009, when it became known that the authorities were going to try to send Seva to jail rather than the policemen who tortured him and his friends, the campaign in his defense began anew. A hunger strike and several theatrical protest actions took place, as well as a protest concert on September 26, 2009, in Chistye Prudy in Moscow.

Activists have created an omnibus site with all the information on the Sokolniki cases.

I imagine that in the very near future we can expect statements and actions from those who are strongly opposed to the falsifications in both Sokolniki cases.

For now Ostapov’s attorney Yevgeny Chernousov has made the following statement to IKD’s correspondent:

“We disagree with the prosecutor’s decision. Ostapov is not guilty. The prosecutor has ignored the fact that the record contains testimonies from 17 witnesses that show Ostapov’s innocence. Only two witnesses — beat cops — have given testimony that Ostapov committed an assault. A question arises: if the prosecutor has decided that the testimonies of these 17 people are false, then why isn’t he filing charges against them for giving knowingly false testimony? At the very first court hearing we intend to ask the court to make a ruling on whether such charges should be filed.”

According to IKD, Chernousov believes that the Ostapov case marks a precedent: from the very outset, the investigation took the side of police officers. This is an obvious breach of civil rights. The consequence of such cases is that citizens understand that the ‘policeman is always right’ and in any conflict they will prefer to solve the problem by offering a bribe. Which only reinforces corruption in the ranks of the law enforcement authorities.

During the investigation, Investigator Kobzar refused to show Vsevolod Ostapov and his attorney a video provided by the channel REN-TV despite the fact that they have the right to examine material evidence. In all likelihood, the video shows clearly what happened at the metro station. For some reason, this video was filed as evidence in the investigation of the beatings in the police precinct despite the fact that it is a record of the conflict near the entrance to the Sokolniki metro station. All these irregularities have led to the filing of numerous complaints.

Now the case is in the hands of the court system. The witnesses are ready to go to court and confirm their testimonies. These witnesses include not only young “informals” (Seva’s acquaintances), but also random passersby who stopped to look when they heard the screams of the young people as they were being beaten.

“If Ostapov is found guilty, that will signal that there is no hope that the situation with the law enforcement authorities will change,” says Chernousov. “A month has passed since the investigation into the case of the beatings of five young people at the Sokolniki police precinct was reopened, but no steps to investigate the case have been taken. It is obvious that an order has come down not to investigate the case.”

—Vlad Tupikin

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