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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: June 16, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Detentions and Beatings of Russian Opposition and Activists
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The daily Russian-language publication from RFE/RL called 7:40 na Perrone, as well as Radio Svaboda, the Russian-language service of the US-funded RFE/RL, has noted a spate of detentions and beatings lately of opposition and activists.

o Yesterday activists Viktor Kapitonov and Vasily Nedopyokin were detained at the Federation Council building for passing out leaflets about the re-confirmation of Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, Radio Svoboda reported, citing the Facebook page of human rights defender Irina Yatsenko.

The two men were taken to the Tverskoy police precinct and then released pending trial on June 17 on charges of violating the law on public demonstrations and could face a fine of up to 20,000 rubles. This was not their first detention for leafletting

o Yesterday in Moscow, Vitaly Serukanov, a lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Fund led by Alexey Navalny, was detained for taking part in solo pickets protesting the re-confirmation of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika.

Under the law on demonstrations, solo pickets are supposed to be allowed if the protesters are spaced far apart from each other. But police can arbitrarily declare such picketers in violation.  

Serukanov had also been previously detained for picketing in support of Oleg Navalny, the brother of Alexey Navalny tried in a case involving the French firm Yves Rocher believed to be fabricated to retaliate against Navalny for his corruption expose.
Set as default press image
Activist passing out leaflets about Prosecutor General Yury Chaika.
2016-06-16 18:44:24

Translation: They say they are taking me to Oryol. The court is there. I'm cooked. 

Oryol was the location of his last detention.

Today Serukanov was fined 20,000 rubles ($304), OVD-Info reported.

o reported the detention of Dmitry Potapenko, an officer of the Management Development Group involved in the Party of Growth in Moscow.

According to Interfax, Potapenko was detained by several plainclothesman, put into a van, and driven away. Later several plainclothesmen accompanied by a police officer came to Potapenko's office after the employees called the police when their colleague was detained.

According to Potapenko's fellow employees, the people who detained him said it was not related to the company or his business activity. Police had no comment, Interfax reported.

The Party of Growth is headed by the Russian ombudsman for business, Boris Titov. Potapenko intended to run for elections to the State Duma in the Tushino single-mandate district. Opposition MP Dmitry Gudkov and Rospotrebnadzor [the state consumer agency) head will also run in this district.

Potapenko became well known in 2015 after circulating a video of himself making a critical speech at the Moscow Economic Forum. Potapenko also hosted some hows on Finam FM and City FM.

But curiously, Potapenko later denied he was detained by police, RBC and Slon reported.

"I'm alright, God is merciful," he said cryptically in response to a question of whether his office had been searched by investigators. RBC said that Potapenko's colleague had contacted them and that they had also received via email a video of Potapenko's detention, showing several policemen breaking down the door to his office and detaining a man who appeared to be him.

But Potapenko said that the video may have been an old surveillance video that had been spliced together:

"I haven't seen that video, I'm at the Higher School of Economics, and I can only surmise that they found some old archival footage."
As is common with attacks by either mafia or secret police in Russia, the victim is often told to keep mum and then things will go better for him. That could account for his denial. 

Timur Khasanov uploaded a video to YouTube today with a comment saying that "athletically-built people and policemen broke into our office today". Using the authority of the policemen, they broke into Potapenko's office. The man being detained in the video does appear to be Potapenko. The metadata on the video shows it to be dated June 16, and a reverse image search does not turn up any other videos.

o The gay couple detained for paying tribute at the US Embassy in Moscow to the victims of the terrorist attack on the gay club in Orlando could face 10 days in jail or a fine of at least 20,000 rubles ($303) for an "unsanctioned picket," RFE/RL reports. As we reported, they carried a sign saying "Love Wins" and a candle, and this was interpreted by police as an unlawful public demonstration, because they didn't have a picket. Their lawyer said they were just laying the items on the ground, however, not demonstrating.

o In Korolyov, a suburb of Moscow, Igor Ivanov, an activist in the Solidarity movement was beaten near his home, Radio Svoboda reported. Two unidentified men approached him shouting "This is for Savchenko, for Crimea!". Ivanov, who suffered bruises and leg injuries, says the attack was for his participation in opposition activities.

o Aleksandr Vesyolov, chairman of the Union of Ecolostis of Bashkiria, was beaten in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, Radio Svoboda reported.

Vesyolov said he had gotten into this car and was about to drive away when a tall, burly man asked him for a light. Vesyolov braked the car and the man tore open the door and punched him in the face a half dozen times shouting, "Mind your own business!" Because he had already buckled his seatbelt, he was unable to protect himself. 

A surveillance camera near the building where the Union of Ecologists' office is located was able to capture the attack. A guard inside the building who was monitoring the camera saw the attack and pushed an emergency button to summon the police and ran outside to the car. The assailant then fled. Vesyolov suffered cuts and bruises to his face and lips.

Several months earlier, a man who called himself by the nickname "The Inquisitor" threatened him, saying, "You are drinking blood in the south of Bashkiriya, we will punish you."

Vesyolov's said his group has indeed been active in the south in the town of Sterlitamak, protesting the construction of a solid waste landfill which they believed violated environmental laws. After gathering 2,000 signatures they were able to get a government analysis of the project and the involvement of Rosprirodnadzor, the Russian state environmental oversight agency, and stopped the construction. He believes that businessmen involved in the construction, angry at his helping to stop it and who had sought a meeting with him, could be behind the attack because they lost millions of rubles.

But the attack could also have been inspired by retaliation from the leadership of the Bashkortostan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment which he had also criticized in a report, accusing the ministry of falsifying data about air pollution and lobbying the interests of corporations. The Ufa police have opened a case.

o In Ulyanovsk, police opened a case to investigate the attack on Aleksandr Bragin, local leader of a branch of the opposition party Parnas, Meduza reported. Three men assaulted him this week near his home. He was hospitalized with skull and spine trauma.

Bragin believes the attack was related to his civic activity. He is a member of the Ulyanovsk Region Civic Chamber, an advisor to the governor and heads the regional Environmental Chamber.

As can be seen, some of these incidents are related to the upcoming parliamentary elections to the State Duma in September. While supposedly President Vladimir Putin has encouraged alternative candidates to the ruling United Russia party, in practice such dissidents are being harassed in a variety of ways to keep them from getting a seat in parliament.

Other incidents are related to business intertwined with state power in mafia-like fashion which uses violence to enforce their will, particularly related to claims of damage to the environment.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick