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Twice-injured: about the police officer harmed in the March 26 anti-corruption protests

11:27, 30 march 2017

Policeman Evgeny Gavrilov shortly after his was struck by an unidentified person in Moscow on March 26, 2017.

Photo: Artyom Lunev / AP / Scanpix / LETA

During an anti-corruption protest in Moscow on March 26, an unidentified man kicked helmeted police officer Evgeny Gavrilov in the head. Gavrilov suffered a traumatic brain injury. Russia’s Investigative Committee has initiated a criminal investigation into the “encroachment on the life of a police officer,” an offense that carries a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison. Gavrilov was previously injured in another loud case involving protests and riots, namely the Bolotnaya Square protests. As a result, twenty-five-year-old Ivan Nepomnyashchikh – an engineer from Moscow – was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in December 2015 on charges of attacking policemen at the Bolotnaya Square protests. Meduza shares what it was able to learn about Eugeny Gavrilov.

The anti-corruption rally

The 2nd operational police regiment, one of whose branches Evgeny Gavrilov oversees, was formed in 2004. The regiment is tasked with maintaining order during mass events in Moscow. The regiment is the second largest in the Moscow division of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs after Moscow’s riot police.

Gavrilov was attacked as the unauthorized protest that took place in Moscow on March 26 was nearing its end. At that moment, Gavrilov and his colleagues ushering crowd of protestors into alleyways from Tverskaya Street. In his own words (late in the evening on March 26, Gavrilov was interviewed by the publication Life), amongst the protestors was a group of citizens shouting slogans and ignoring requests that they disperse. “By radio, we received an order to detain the most active [of the protestors] ... when we started to act on this order, I got a blow from the side or from behind. I lost consciousness,” said the policeman. At the hospital, Gavrilov was diagnosed with a closed head injury and a concussion.

A video filmed immediately after the attack shows Gavrilov lying on the ground and his colleagues, irritably reacting to surroundings protestors, trying to revive him and shouting that an ambulance be called. After this incident, both police began to beat and detain protestors with much greater fervor.

On March 27, the Investigative Committee initiated an investigation under Article 317 of Russia’s Criminal Code (on the encroachment on the life of a police officer). The case is being investigated by Russia’s Main Directorate for Especially Important Cases. Svetlana Petrenko, the head of the department’s press office, stated that it was not by chance that this case was brought to the department and promised that “the most stringent legal assessment” would be made. At present, there are no suspects in the case.

The same day, Chairman of Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov visited Gavrilov at the hospital. The human rights council website lists only the name and rank of the policeman. Gavrilov told Fedotov that he was struck by a “professional” blow: he immediately lost consciousness and fell, although he was wearing a helmet and all means of protection. Fedotov himself called the policeman “a good, modest person.”

“We talked about life, about his marital status. He said that he has a wife, a daughter, two brothers, and that they all live together with their parents in the same apartment. I promised that the council would ask that he be helped with finding a solution to his housing issue,” said Fedotov, adding that he brought the victim honey and mountain tea.

The Bolotnaya Square protests

This was not the first time that Evgeny Gavrilov was injured during a rally in Moscow. In December 2015, Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky Court found engineer Ivan Nepomnyashchikh guilty of participating in mass riots and of using violence against police officers. The victims in the Nepomniachaschih case were officers from Gavrilov’s unit and the unit of Viktor Kolmakov.

Bolotnaya Square case defendant Ivan Nepomyashchikh in court in February 2015.
Photo: Pyotr Kassin / Kommersant

Ivan Nepomnyashchikh’s lawyers Olga Dinze and Sergei Sharov-Delone, as well as his father Andrei Nepomnyashchikh, all confirmed to Meduza that the policeman injured at the March 26 anti-corruption rally in Moscow was, indeed, Evgeny Gavrilov whose testimony was the basis for Ivan Nepomnyashchikh’s arrest. (The first publication to report this was The Village.)

“We have an eternal protest victim. I remember Gavrilov very well, because he has specific features – the facial expressions of a victim. Such a sad guy,” said Dinze in an interview with Meduza.

According to Dinze, Gavrilov only recalled the fact that he was injured at the Bolotnaya Square rally on May 6, 2012 only three years after the fact. In a report on his work at the May 2012 rally, Gavrilov did not mention that he was injured or in any way harmed. “I asked him how he remembered this, asked him whether it was the investigator who had reminded him of this. He said that yes, [it was the investigator]. That is, at certain moments, he let the truth spill,” said Dinze.

The lawyer also said that Gavrilov spoke “very sluggishly” and “without certainty”: “It was clear that he did not want to participate in the court hearing, but he had no choice ... All of these employees are very similar in their psychological profile: some behave aggressively, others are quiet. Gavrilov is one of those who behaves quietly and modestly in court,” said the lawyer.

Human rights activist Sergei Sharov-Delone also remembered Evgeny Gavrilov. “It was clear that he was absolutely sure of his complete impunity. After all, this was not the first trial in the Bolotnaya Square case, so they all knew that perjury was not a threat to anyone,” said Sharov-Delone in an interview with Meduza.

In an interview with Meduza, Ivan’s father Andrei Nepomnyashchikh described his meeting with Gavrilov as follows: “That day a lot of people came to the meeting to support Vanka, and I had to sit with two people I did not know. When I realized that the people I rubbed shoulders with were the injured Kolmakov and Gavrilov, I told the judge that I did not want to sit next to them, and left. I was afraid that I would not be able to keep calm, [and] that would have been wrong.” According to Nepomnyashchikh senior, before the hearing, Gavrilov and Kolmakov took a walk together and were seen constantly whispering and consulting with someone older than them in rank.

Moscow’s branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs would not tell Meduza about Gavrilov’s behavior at work, nor would it comment on Gavrilov’s current condition.

Sasha Sulim