Tag Archives: Strategy 31

The Smartest Kid in Russia

Arman Tuganbayev (who hints that he’s fourteen, but looks more like ten, as his interlocutors in this video conjecture) explains why he was on out on the streets of Moscow on May 31 protesting against the Putin regime:

(via Andrei Malgin)

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Backlash: Other Russia Activist Taisiya Osipova Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Taisiya Osipova

December 30, 2011
Backlash: Other Russia Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Ilya Azar

As 2011 came to a close, Other Russia activist Taisiya Osipova was sentenced in Smolensk to ten years in prison for the sale and possession of narcotics. Osipova, who suffers from several serious diseases and has a five-year-old daughter, was kept in detention for over a year before hearing the verdict. The opposition and human rights activists consider the Osipova case political and symbolic for Russia.

“After Taisiya Osipova’s verdict, the opposition’s struggle for power in Russia has turned into a struggle against pure evil, into a fight on the side of good,” wrote Sergei Aksenov, a former National Bolshevik and a leader of The Other Russia, on his Twitter account. And he’s not the only one: on the evening of December 29, the Runet seethed with indignation, and the word “bitches,” addressed to the authorities in general and the judiciary in particular, was one of the mildest epithets.

According to oppositionists, the main representative of evil in the Taisiya Osipova case is Yevgeny Dvoryanchikov, judge of Smolensk’s Zadneprovsky District Court. It was he who on December 29 sentenced Osipova to ten years in prison for possession and sale of drugs under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code. The fact that Osipova has diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic pyelonephritis, and that she has a five-year-old daughter, Katrine, made no impression on him. (The World Organization Against Torture had twice appealed to Russian authorities to release Osipova.)

True, Dvoryanchikov still did not have not an easy time making the decision: he retired to chambers to write the verdict at twelve noon, returning to the courtroom at around midnight (he began reading out the verdict at 11:15 p.m.). It is not clear why Dvoryanchikov took so long to write the verdict and what was going in his chambers during this time. Other Russia leader and writer Eduard Limonov has already labeled the judge’s actions “vile” and an attempt to conceal the verdict from the public.

The general public does not know about the Osipova case, despite the fact this past summer (when the verdict was supposed to have been rendered), Other Russia activists staged a sit-down strike over several days at the Solovki Stone in downtown Moscow. The police confronted the strikers as best they could, surrounding the square and detaining the harmless activists as they made their way to the stone.

Osipova was arrested on November 23, 2010, when five packets containing an unknown substance and marked bills were found in her home. Osipova was charged with possession of narcotics possession under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code.

According to police investigators, Osipova had sold four grams of heroin for three thousands rubles, and an additional nine grams were found in her home. Defense attorneys and journalists were alarmed by the fact that the witnesses during the controlled buys [staged by police] were three young women associated with pro-Kremlin youth movements. At the same time, the [packets containing the] seized substance were not fingerprinted: defense attorneys are thus certain that the heroin was planted in Taisiya’s home.

Other Russia activists have always maintained that the Osipova case is utterly political. Her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, is a member of The Other Russia’s executive committee. Osipova claimed that the police investigators who detained her told her directly that they were not interested in her, but in her husband, who lives in Moscow. Fearing arrest, Fomchenkov never once traveled from the capital to Smolensk to visit his arrested wife.

Alexander Averin, a representative of The Other Russia and ex-press secretary of the banned National Bolshevik Party, told Lenta.Ru that police had immediately promised to give her ten years if she did not testify against Fomchenkov. The guilty verdict was not a surprise for the opposition, although few had expected such a harsh sentence (despite the fact that the prosecutor had asked the judge to sentence Osipova to twelve years and eight months in prison).

“I see Dvoryanchikov’s face: he knows there is nothing to the charges. He’s just carrying out orders. It’s not his decision, but he’s an ambitious careerist, and doesn’t want problems. So I just have to get to the appeals stage and keep working,” Osipova herself said in an interview with Grani.Ru in December.

Svetlana Sidorkina, an attorney with the human rights association Agora who, along with Smolensk lawyer Natalya Shaposhnikova, served as Osipova’s defense counsel, told Lenta.Ru that, in the wake of the verdict, defense attorneys intend both to file an appeal and petition the [European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg. Sidorkina has no illusions about the prospects of an appeal. “We definitely hoped for the best, but we also didn’t rule out such a [harsh] outcome. I assumed that the sentence would be six and a half years, while Shaposhnikova [thought it would be] eight, but unfortunately we both guessed wrong,” said the lawyer.

The Other Russia now intends to fight for Osipova, and is counting on public support. In December 2011, civil society in Russia, especially in Moscow, suddenly and powerfully made itself heard. Tens of thousands of people came out for the fair elections rallies on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Boulevard, and almost a thousand people came to a protest in defense of [arrested] Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov.

“This is a slap in the face of civil society. People came out and demanded honesty and justice from the authorities, and this was the response — Judge Borovkova, the arrests of Udaltsov and Nikitenko, and, to top it all off, a ten-year sentence for Osipova. The state has recovered its senses and delivered a counterblow. I wonder how society will react to this — will it go celebrate the New Year or will it defend the freedom of political prisoners?” Averin put it emotionally last night.

He added that the traditional Strategy 31 rally on Triumfalnaya Square on December 31 would be dedicated to Taisia and political prisoners in general. “Lots of people are indignant over this verdict. Different people have been calling me who weren’t planning to come out on December 31 but who have now decided to go,” said Averin. On the night of December 30, there in fact were appeals on the Internet to go to the unauthorized rally in support of Osipova on Triumfalnaya Square.

A year ago on December 31, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of the Solidarity movement, were arrested at a Strategy 31 rally. They both rang in the New Year behind bars: Nemtsov was sentenced to fifteen days in jail, while Yashin was sentenced to five. In 2009, Sergei Mokhnatkin was arrested during a New Year’s Eve rally: he was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison for [allegedly] assaulting a police officer.

It is a big question whether “enraged city dwellers” will take to Triumfalnaya Square over the harsh verdict handed to ex-National Bolshevik Osipova. Or are rigged elections the only thing that, for the time being, can really enrage them?

Photo courtesy of Free Voina. See their coverage of the Osipova case here (in Russian) and here (in English).

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The Power of the Waltz to Shape Troubled Young Minds

Russian police wants to know what young people read and listen to

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev has said that the activity of some internet resources should be restricted to prevent extremism among the youth.

Young people are very often influenced by others, and they commit “the most audacious and cynical crimes on the grounds of national, racial or religious hatred,” Police Chief Rashid Nurgaliev said. He was speaking at the first regional meeting of the new interdepartmental counter-extremist commission in Novosibirsk on Tuesday.

President Dmitry Medvedev created the new body last week in order to combine the efforts of 16 ministries and state agencies to prevent extremism and remove the conditions which fuel it.

Young people should be protected from harmful influence, Nurgaliev said, adding that they are supposed to “continue and develop the traditions of a multinational country that has many faiths.” The authorities and law enforcement agencies are bound to study the situation in the regions so that the state can develop “adequate measures of response”, the minister noted.

To prevent extremism, it is necessary to know the cultural preferences of young people in regards to music, literature and movies, the police chief believes. The monitoring of what people listen to, read, and watch is also long overdue, the minister stressed. Many cultural values that have united people for years, including such important facets of our musical heritage as love songs and waltzes, have been forgotten in the recent times, he noted.  

Russian waltz instructors

Quite recently, however, employers and members of selection committees in universities were interested in young people’s musical and literature preferences, Nurgaliev said. He added it was necessary to see if their current musical preferences are “one-sided.”

The mass media could play its part in preventing extremist manifestations, the police chief said. But he also called for placing restrictions on the activities of some internet resources. The Internet has become “a means of organizing extremist or even terrorist actions,” he noted. The work of certain websites should be limited, “without infringing on the freedom to exchange information,” Nurgaliev said.

The new commission, headed by the interior minister, will coordinate the efforts of the federal and regional authorities in fighting extremism. The police chief has no doubts that the body will bring about real results in the fight against this evil.


The St. Petersburg Times
August 3, 2011
Dozens of Arrests Made at Strategy 31 Meeting
By Sergey Chernov

Around 70 were detained as the police shut down a peaceful rally in defense of the right of assembly on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, on Sunday, the organizers said. The police admitted to “around 50” arrests during the demo which drew from 500 to 700 people.

The detained were charged with violation of the regulations on holding public events and failure to obey police officers’ orders.

Five people were released later on the same day after being brought to a court that agreed to move their cases’ hearing to their local courts, but most were left at four police precincts overnight. Two women were hospitalized after they fell ill in police precincts, according to the organizers.

Court hearings continued on Monday.

Apart from dispersing the rally, the authorities made preventive arrests, a practice they have not used since the Strategy 31 campaign was launched in St. Petersburg in January 2010.

Olga Kurnosova, the local chair of the United Civil Front and one of the rally’s organizers, said she was detained by plainclothes men, who refused to introduce themselves, near her home as she was heading to the demo. She said she was held in the car for around three hours.

“They were trying to brainwash me telling me that it’s time to stop demonstrating on the 31st day of the month, that I had better think about my children and nonsense like that,” Kurnosova said by phone Monday.

Three activists of the Other Russia political party were detained before they reached the site near Gostiny Dvor, where the event was held.

The police have frequently shown unnecessary cruelty. The St. Petersburg Times witnessed two women being dragged by their wrists, with their backs dragging across the ground. One of them, Alexandra Kachko, had her wrist broken by an unidentified policeman during the May 31 demo.

A passing Navy veteran, celebrating Navy Day which also fell on July 31, was evidently shocked by how Kachko was treated and tried to speak out on her behalf to a police officer. He was also seized and put in the bus, where the detained were held.

The police officers also were seen twisting arms and feet of the detained as they made arrests and pushing people around. Although they tended to arrest people who identified themselves as demonstrators by sitting on the ground or shouting slogans such as “Russia Will Be Free,” a number of the arrested were passers-by and onlookers.

The police claimed that one demonstrator kicked an officer in the jaw, but did not give the name. They said a criminal case would be filed against the alleged offender.

Author Nina Katerli, who came to the demo for the first time with a homemade poster to support a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin into Congress in May to freeze assets and block visas of individuals who commit gross human-rights violations against whistleblowers and activists in the Russian Federation, only just managed to escape arrest.

Katerli, 77, who walks with a stick because of a broken leg, said she wanted to make a speech to urge U.S. sanctions against Russian officials connected to the persecution of imprisoned businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.

“But I failed, because, first, I had no microphone or anything, and, secondly, as soon as I came I was seized and dragged towards the police bus,” she said by phone Monday.

Katerli said she was won back by people around who were indignant at the sight of her being dragged and that they prevented the police from detaining her until a senior officer arrived and ordered that she be left.

She described the arrests of the activists as “illegal” and a “violation of the constitution.” “Before Putin, you didn’t need any sanctions to hold a demo, it’s outrageous that Putin introduced them,” Katerli said.

Kurnosova said that the participation of Katerli was important. “It’s crucial that people have started to come with their own agendas,” she said.

“Even if they arrest the leaders, people will be coming to the demo on their own; the authorities have to understand that this tactic doesn’t work. The fact that people come to the rally is perhaps the campaign’s main result in the long run.”

The Other Russia local chair Andrei Dmitriyev said that the St. Petersburg authorities showed more intolerance to the demonstrators than the Moscow authorities.

“If in Moscow, they let people sit for two hours and only began arresting people when there was an attempted march, in St. Petersburg they shut down the demo as soon as people sat down on the ground,” he said.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his complete photo reportage of the protest and arrests here and here.

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March to Smolny

Opposition Declares Dissenters’ March a Success
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1650 (12), Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Also called the March to Smolny (City Hall), the march — spearheaded by Moscow-based oppositional politician and former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov — was banned by the authorities, but protesters, whose number was estimated at between 1,000 and 2,000, managed to march most of the 4.5-kilometer route despite the police’s attempts to block them.The Dissenters’ March for the Dismissal of Governor Valentina Matviyenko that took place on Thursday was described by the opposition as one of the biggest and most successful protest events during the past three years, despite arrests and intimidation.

Many protesters were eventually stopped on Mytninskaya Ulitsa, where the most arrests were made. But a handful of marchers managed to reach the final destination near City Hall, and were able to chant some slogans before being surrounded and detained by the police.

According to the organizers, the police detained about 150 people near Gostiny Dvor department store on Nevsky Prospekt and alongside the march’s route, including Nemtsov, Moscow activist Ilya Yashin and the local Solidarity and United Civil Front (OGF) leader Olga Kurnosova. The police confirmed that “more than 100” were detained. More than 90 spent the night in police cells.

The authorities deployed a helicopter to follow the protesters and at one point hover over Nevsky Prospekt, drowning out slogans such as “Russia Will Be Free” and “Dismiss Matviyenko” and sending road dust and dirt into people’s faces.

One policeman was hospitalized, having been hit by a car after “trying to save a resident by pushing him off the road,” the police reported.

But a video made available on the Internet showed that the policeman was in fact hit by a passing car while dragging The Other Russia member Igor Chepkasov with two other policemen across Ligovsky Prospekt to a police bus. Fontanka.ru, which published the police report, later published a correction.

An estimated 500 people who arrived late at the march gathered near Gostiny Dvor, where arrests were also made.

At one point, a man in professional climbing gear descended from the roof of Gostiny Dvor and hung a banner from it that read “Free Khodorkovsky, Imprison Putin.” Oleg Ivashko, who does not belong to any political group, was detained and sentenced to three days in prison.

Four members of the Other Russia party who were detained near Gostiny Dvor — one of them, Maxim Gromov, while attempting to recite a poem — were also sentenced to three days in prison.

While most protesters marched along Nevsky Prospekt’s broad sidewalk, a group of anarchists carrying smoke bombs took to the road after the crowd passed the Anichkov Bridge, and when dispersed, were replaced by a group of The Other Russia activists carrying a banner reading “Dismiss Matviyenko!”

Members of art group Voina, two of whom have been released on bail after spending three months in a St. Petersburg prison for an art stunt that involved overturning police cars, marched with anarchists and carried plastic bottles containing urine to counter the police when attacked.

Speaking on Tuesday, Oleg Vorotnikov said he and other Voina activists were deliberately singled out and beaten, while Kasper, the toddler son of Vorotnikov and fellow Voina member Natalya Sokol, was taken from his parents and eventually sent to hospital with a suspected concussion.

Sokol, who is still breastfeeding her son, spent the night in a police cell but managed to escape when the police were preparing to drive her and other activists to court.

Vorotnikov said they took the bottles filled with urine exclusively for self-defense.

“We agreed to use them only if attacked,” he said.

“And we were attacked, but we didn’t use them until they attacked Kasper. When Kasper was attacked, the anarchists couldn’t stand it anymore and used our rather humble biological weapon — our own urine.”

Vorotnikov, who got Kasper back from the hospital with the help of his lawyer late Thursday, said that he, Sokol and their son had evidence of their injuries documented in a hospital. According to Vorotnikov, who described the police’s behavior as “senseless hysteria,” the activists were beaten both during detentions and at a police precinct.

“I am used to clashes with the police,” Vorotnikov said.

I was beaten on March 3; we have collided with them before. I have spent some time in prison, too, but even I did not expect to face such absurd, ungrounded cruelty on that day.”

City Hall refused to authorize the march organized by the OGF, Solidarity, The Other Russia, Rot Front, Oborona and Mikhail Kasyanov’s People’s Democratic Union (RNDS) on the grounds that building facades were being renovated along all of the five suggested routes. Instead, the authorities suggested the would-be marchers hold a standup meeting on Pionerskaya Ploshchad or a march in the remote Polyustrovo Park.

All photos by Sergey Chernov. They are used here with his permission.

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Petersburg: Where Freedom of Assembly Is a Crime


The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1623 (84), Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Strategy 31 Rally Hit With Criminal Case
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The authorities stepped up repressive measures against Sunday’s Strategy 31 rally in defense of freedom of assembly in St. Petersburg, holding detained activists at police precincts overnight, searching activists’ apartments and investigating several participants for suspected extremism. If they are found guilty, they will face up to three years in prison.

Andrei Pivovarov, the local leader of the People’s Democratic Union (RNDS) and one of the rally’s organizers, was detained almost immediately after the start of the rally, taken to court three hours later and sentenced to 27 days in prison Sunday. The Other Russia’s Andrei Pesotsky was sentenced to 14 days in prison Monday.

Alexander Belenky/SPTPolice arrest a demonstrator by Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt on Sunday. A total of 112 demonstrators were detained.

Andrei Dmitriyev, the local leader of The Other Russia party, was sentenced to five days in prison Monday after spending the night in a police precinct. They were all charged with violating the rules on holding public events and failing to obey a police officer’s orders.

Speaking on his cell phone from a police truck where he was held before the court hearing on Monday afternoon, Dmitriyev said that his apartment and those of two other activists were searched by the Center E anti-extremism state agency on Monday morning. The officers showed his parents documents stating that a criminal investigation had been opened into suspected participation in the activities of a banned organization.

The three activists whose apartments were searched — Dmitriyev, Vadim Mamedov and Alexander Yashin — are all members of The Other Russia, the party formed by author and oppositional politician Eduard Limonov earlier this year. Limonov’s previous party, the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), was banned as “extremist” in 2005.

Dmitriyev said that Center E is claiming that the NBP has been active in St. Petersburg during the past 18 months.

The police detained 104 people near Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, and another eight at a separate, smaller rally on Palace Square, organizers said. About 30 were held at three different police precincts throughout the night and taken to court on Monday.

Five activists, including The Other Russia’s Ravil Bashirov, had their cases postponed, but upon leaving the court, they were seized by plainclothes men and taken in for interrogation, The Other Russia activist Andrei Milyuk said by phone Monday. According to him, the interrogations were part of the investigation into the “extremism” case.

The OMON special-task police, whose faces were hidden behind ski masks and helmets, charged the crowd and detained speakers promptly, preventing them from speaking for more than a minute on Sunday. Pivovarov, who opened the rally, was among the first people to be detained, at 6 p.m. One of the last, Sergei Kuzin of the Solidarity democratic movement, was detained at 7:15 p.m.

During Sunday’s event, activists hung a large banner featuring anarchist symbols and the slogan “Any form of authority is shit. It’s forbidden to forbid,” from the roof of Passazh retail center directly opposite the rally’s location.

RNDS spokesman Pavel Smolyak said he believed that Pivovarov’s sentence was predetermined.

Smolyak said that Judge Alexei Kuznetsov declared the hearing “closed,” and Smolyak was not allowed into the courtroom during the hearing, which lasted two hours. “The policemen in the corridor reported [Pivovarov’s sentence] by phone before it was even announced; it was all obvious from the very start,” Smolyak said by phone Monday.

Strategy 31 is a nonpartisan civil rights campaign demanding that the authorities obey Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which states that “citizens have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons.” Proposed by Limonov last year, the events have been held on the 31st day of months that have that many days.

First held in Moscow on July 31 last year, the Strategy 31 events have been held in St. Petersburg since Jan. 31.

Sunday’s rally was not authorized by City Hall on the grounds that “planned maintenance work” would be in progress on the site near Gostiny Dvor at the time of the planned rally, organizers said. No work could be seen on Sunday.

The Strategy 31 events were held in 67 Russian cities, with support events in New York and London, The Other Russia’s spokesman Alexander Averin said Monday. Thirty-eight were detained in Moscow.

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Putin: Beat Them with Truncheons

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1605 (66), Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Putin Gives Warning to Demonstrators
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

While a criminal case about the police excesses during the July 31 demo in defense of the right to assembly was opened in St. Petersburg last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made news Monday by speaking approvingly of police beatings in an interview with Kommersant.


Noize MC, “10 Days (Stalingrad)”: An audiovisual tribute to Putin’s police state


“You have to get a permit from the local authorities,” Putin was quoted as saying.

“You got it? Then go and rally. If not, you don’t have the right. If you go out without having the right, you’ll get a bash on the head with a truncheon.”

Putin also said that demonstrators consciously provoke the police into administering beatings and pour red paint over themselves to imitate blood.

Putin’s words were published a day before rallies due in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities across Russia on Tuesday, as part of the Strategy 31 campaign in defense of the right of assembly guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian constitution. The events are held on the 31st day of months that have 31 days.

The authorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg have not authorized the campaign’s events since it began on July 31, 2009, in Moscow. Opposition politicians took Putin’s words as a threat.

Author and oppositional politician Eduard Limonov, one of the leaders of Strategy 31, reacted by describing Putin as a “man of violence.”

“The chair of the Russian government V.V. Putin’s interview is outrageous in its tone and insulting to the citizens of Russia,” Limonov wrote in his blog on Monday.

“It contains elements of intimidation with the threat of violence […]. Incitement of law enforcement agencies to violence is evident. Thus, the phrase ‘get a bash on the head with a truncheon’ is repeated three times.”

Despite the interview, the Aug. 31 events will go ahead as planned, organizers said Monday. Moscow demonstrators will assemble on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, while St. Petersburg protesters will assemble by the Gostiny Dvor metro station on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, on Tuesday. The events start at 6 p.m.

Aug. 31 events are also scheduled in around 40 Russian cities. Demos in support of Strategy 31 are also due to take place near Russian embassies and Russian government representative offices in London, New York, Tel Aviv, Prague and Helsinki.

“For us, nothing has changed, as a matter of fact; we’ll go to Gostiny Dvor, as always,” said Andrei Dmitriyev, a local Strategy 31 leader, on Monday.

“It’s a mixture of Putin’s typical yobbishness — posing as a tough guy — and sheer bluff, because if one analyzes in detail what he said, it has nothing to do with Russian law and common sense,” he said.

“He either doesn’t know Russian laws or simply couldn’t care less about them.”

In Dmitriyev’s view, the law on public events says nothing about getting permits from the local authorities, instead requiring merely that the authorities be informed of planned events.

“Our authorities have chosen several ‘ghettoes,’ where they send the opposition to rally,” said Dmitriyev, adding that earlier this month City Hall offered the organizers the chance to hold the rally in the remote 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution Park on the city’s northeastern outskirts, but refused to authorize the rally near Gostiny Dvor.

“This practice of sending the demonstrators to ‘ghettoes’ is also illegal in its essence,” he said.

The St. Petersburg authorities have refused to authorize Strategy 31 rallies on the grounds that the site was close to a metro and thus the subject of “special security regulations” starting from the first local event on Jan. 31, but failed to produce these regulations to the organizers.

The most recent Strategy 31 rally, which was held on July 31, was thwarted with particular brutality, with several people being badly beaten. The St. Petersburg Department of Internal Affairs (GUVD) started an investigation on the police’s actions during the demo, which is due to be finished on Sept. 2, according to a GUVD spokesman.

A criminal case was opened by the Investigative Committee of the Russian prosecutor’s office last week. According to its statement, the investigation has established that a police officer hit an “unidentified” man on the head with a rubber truncheon at least once “without having sufficient grounds.”


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Looking for the “Animal” Cop

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1598 (59), Friday, August 6, 2010
Police Claim They Will Investigate ‘Animal’ Policeman
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The St. Petersburg Interior Ministry is looking into the actions of officers who beat and arrested people while dispersing a peaceful rally in defense of the right of assembly on Saturday, July 31, a police spokesman said this week.

The statement came in the wake of a large number of reports about the actions of one officer in particular who beat people with his police baton and dragged a young woman by her hair. The officer, whose rank praporshchik is roughly equivalent to the U.S. police rank of sergeant, remains unidentified. Meanwhile, many of those who suffered violence at the hands of the police have filed complaints to police chiefs and the prosecutor, asking them to open a criminal case.

In a video widely distributed on the Internet, the officer is seen approaching people at the Strategy 31 rally held near Gostiny Dvor metro on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, with the words “F***ing animals, who else wants some?” A young man wearing a red T-shirt is heard asking, “Why are you swearing?” — in answer to which the officer hits him across the face with his baton and drags him roughly to a police bus, accompanied by other policemen.

The young man who was hit in the face was Dmitry Semyonov, who said he did not belong to any political group.

“I was just walking around the city,” he said Thursday. “I knew that there would be a rally at that time and decided to head in the direction of Gostiny Dvor, saw it, stopped and started to watch.”

Semyonov said he did not realize he had been hit with a baton until he saw the video. He said he discovered a painful bump while he was at the police station and realized some of his hair had been pulled out.

“To be honest, it was very fast, I remember he grabbed me by the hair, then hit me, a woman started to pull me aside, and while [the police] were dragging me, I remember shouting, ‘What for? What for?’” Semyonov was charged with violating the rules for holding public events.

Svetlana Pavlushina is the young woman who can be seen in videos and photos being dragged by her long hair by the same police officer. Pavlushina is an activist with White Ribbon, the movement for police reform headed by former policeman Alexei Dymovsky.

“I was standing and filming the detentions,” she said Thursday. “He got out of the bus, saw me, and with the words ‘You want to be there, too?’ started to drag me by my hair.” She said she was left with several bruises on her wrist from being seized.

“I started to scream to attract attention. My sister and then Eduard Balagurov from our movement came to my rescue.”

Balagurov, who was detained and taken to hospital after being beaten, said that White Ribbon activists had not taken part in the rally, but had come to observe and document the police’s actions.

He said he rushed to help Pavlushina when he heard her screaming.

“She was surrounded by a crowd of policemen who were pulling her hair, shoving her from side to side and grabbing her clothes,” Balagurov said.

“I held onto that same officer because he was being the most aggressive toward Sveta and holding her hair most firmly, and I tried to pull his arm away from Sveta.”

Balagurov was detained and badly beaten when he refused to enter the police bus. “They started to kick me and hit me with their fists, and that same sergeant tried to gouge out my eyes,” he said. “What struck me was that they were swearing and frenzied. The policemen usually say in their defense that they were only acting on orders. I feel the order was to do it in a sadistic way.”

Balagurov said he felt ill and dizzy at the police station and was taken away by ambulance with a suspected concussion. Like Semyonov, he was charged with violating the rules for holding public events.

Alexander Kormushkin, who was wearing a black T-shirt in support of the imprisoned oil tycoon and Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said the same sergeant hit him with his baton twice, causing his head to bleed. He said he frequently takes part in protests, but does not belong to any political group.

Kormushkin said he was dragged by several policemen, including the same sergeant, after he tried to prevent a policeman from arresting activists.

“He punched me twice from below — trying to conceal it, so no one could see — first in the jaw, then he smashed my lip. As I resisted, he tried to gouge out my eye with the other hand.”

Kormushkin said he was beaten by the same sergeant after he escaped from the police bus where detainees were being held, having climbed through a ventilation window onto the roof of the bus.

“I jumped [from the roof] and was caught for a second time,” he said. “They were putting me in the bus, then — bang! — I felt a blow on my head from behind. I turned around, and the same sergeant hit me with his baton for the second time, drawing blood. There was a lot of blood — my face and trousers were covered in blood.”

The police refused to call an ambulance to the bus, and Kormushkin was taken to hospital from the police station, one hour after being detained.

“An investigation of the facts published in the media criticizing the police’s actions on July 31 is underway,” police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko said Thursday.

He said that by law such investigations should be conducted within a month of the event in question, but did not exclude that it would be completed earlier.

Photos by Sergey Chernov

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“F…ing Animals, Who Else Wants Some?” (Petersburg, 31 July 2010)

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1597 (58), Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Police Brutally Disperse Protest
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

Activists and journalists are demanding an investigation into beatings and arbitrary arrests made Saturday at a peaceful rally in defense of the constitutional right of assembly. People were punched and hit with police batons, dragged by their hair, pushed face-first against a police bus and half-strangled inside the bus.

Three detained men were taken to hospital from the police precincts where they were being held, while an old woman who fell to the ground after being pushed by a police officer was taken to hospital from the site of the rally — outside Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt.

Sixty nine were detained during several waves of brutal arrests in the rally, which was part of Strategy 31, the civil campaign demanding the right to assemble peacefully that has been held across Russia since July 2009 on the 31st day of the months with 31 days. The campaign is not affiliated to any single political party.

The day was chosen by oppositional politician and author Eduard Limonov because the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, is guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.

Since its inception, the campaign’s rallies have not once been authorized by the authorities in St. Petersburg or Moscow, where protesters gather on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad.

In St. Petersburg, an estimated 500 came to Gostiny Dvor metro station on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. The protest was launched by Andrei Dmitriyev, the local leader of Limonov’s banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP), who spoke surrounded by supporters with their arms linked in order to make arrests more difficult.

“The whole country is with us today; Strategy 31 events are taking place across the country — from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad,” he shouted.

“The number 31 has become sacred for the political opposition. Article 31 is needed by all the political forces, whatever their ideology, it’s also needed by ordinary passersby.”

The protesters, many of whom wore T-shirts with the number 31 printed on them, deliberately refrained from using megaphones or banners, without which their protest could not officially be qualified as a rally.

But the police rushed to detain participants, who shouted “Russia Will Be Free” and “Freedom,” after an officer speaking into a megaphone claimed that the event was illegal and ordered people to disperse.

The police acted more brutally than during the three previous rallies held in St. Petersburg since Jan. 31. People shouted “Fascists” and “Killers” in response to the police’s actions.

Activists are trying to establish the name of one particular officer who hit a young man in the face with a rubber baton. The officer walked through the crowd shouting “F***ing animals, who else wants some?” Before this incident, he was seen dragging a young woman to a police bus by her hair.

One man, whose head was deliberately rammed into a police bus, was then seen sitting inside the bus near the window with his face covered in blood.

Although the police did not detain journalists during the previous events, three photographers were detained during Saturday’s protest, which lasted for about 40 minutes.

They were charged with “participating in a unsanctioned rally” and “disobeying police orders.” Alexander Astafyev of Moi Rayon weekly newspaper said he was detained when he took a picture of the policemen relaxing after making a wave of arrests.

“One pointed at me and said, ‘I wish you were dead,’ with a smile,” Astafyev said Monday. He was then seized by several policemen and carried to the bus, during which a policeman damaged his camera. Another photographer, Mikhail Obozov of Yevropeyets newspaper, was detained while taking a picture of an old woman lying on the ground after being pushed by a police officer.

A policeman struck Obozov’s camera lens and his photographs were deleted, Astafyev said.

The photographers, who are now waiting for their court summons, have written a complaint to the St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, he said.

Andrei Konstantinov, chair of the St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, said Monday that the detained photographers were being provided with legal support by the union.

“Our lawyers will examine what really happened and then we’ll hold a secretariat meeting and decide what our actions will be. It’s too early to issue any statements right now,” he said.

Strategy 31 events were held in 42 cities and towns across Russia on Saturday, according to the campaign’s organizers. In Moscow, 500 to 1,500 people came to Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, where the protest was also dispersed, with more than 80 people arrested, including former first deputy minister and current Solidarity democratic movement leader Boris Nemtsov.

The statement said that the police acted far more brutally in St. Petersburg than in Moscow.

In St. Petersburg, those detained were taken to four different police stations and released at about midnight, more than five hours after being detained, Dmitriyev said Sunday. Most were charged with “participating in an unsanctioned rally,” while several were also charged with “disobeying police orders,” a more serious offense punishable by up to 15 days in prison.

“The police are acting more and more roughly, with some officers breaking every limit, in particular the one who smashed the man’s head [into the bus] and dragged a young woman to the bus by her hair,” Dmitriyev said.

“We will find the people who were beaten and file complaints to the prosecutor. To stop this from happening again, we’ll invite the local ombudsman and rights activists to our next rally, scheduled for Aug. 31. Hopefully, it will dampen the rage of the uniformed men a little.”

A police spokesman declined to comment Monday.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his full photo reportage of the demonstration here.

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