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Putin ‘cheated’ him Police arrest retired army major seven times in two weeks for protesting outside Russia's Presidential Administration Building

Source: Meduza

On May 11, police arrested a retired soldier picketing outside the Presidential Administration Building. Vladimir Skubak, a former major who served in the Glukhov Rocket Division in Novosibirsk, demonstrated with a sign that read, “Putin cheated me. Hunger strike.” The website OVD-Info first reported the incident.

In March 2014, without his commanding officer’s permission, Skubak traveled to Ukraine to bring home his ex-wife’s son, who’d ended up in an orphanage. The major lost his security clearance the following year, after the unauthorized trip and after complaining that he hadn’t been paid his stipend while on a four-month sabbatical. Without his security clearance, Skubak submitted his resignation, citing health reasons. The army subsequently discharged him, but Skubak says the military withheld the housing subsidies to which he was entitled. He took the matter to court and to military prosecutors, but he says he was “turned away every time.”

In 2018, Skubak started picketing outside the Presidential Envoy’s Office in the Siberian Federal District and the Defense Ministry headquarters in Moscow. He came with a sign that read, “Putin cheated me.” Skubak says he blames the president for his predicament because Putin appointed the generals and judges who ruled against him. On April 20, 2019, according to the radio station Ekho Moskvy, Skubak announced a hunger strike at a picket outside the Presidential Administration Building. Since then, he’s been arrested at least seven times.

The first two arrests were on April 29 and 30. Both times, Skubak was released without charges. After the third arrest, police charged him with illegally wearing a military uniform, and confiscated his jacket and cap. Dmitry Yegoshin, Skubak’s attorney from the Public Verdict Foundation human rights group, told OVD-Info that the former officer served in the military for 22 years, which he says grants him the right to wear his uniform in retirement. According to Yegoshin, this information original appeared in Skubak’s discharge paperwork, but his unit commander supposedly altered the records to rob him of the right to wear his uniform.

Police arrested Skubak for a fourth time on May 8, along with a counter-protester who stood nearby with a sign reading, “Guys, don’t trust him. He wants an apartment on your dime.” Both men were brought to a local police station, and later released without charges.

The next day, police arrested Skubak again while he picketed outside the Presidential Administration Building, and then charged him with disorderly conduct. According to Ivan Klimov, the editor-in-chief of the website Rupor Moskvy, there were allegedly reports that Skubak was screaming obscenities in public. The officers also supposedly advised the retired major against “staging this circus with all the picketing” on Victory Day (when Russia celebrates the USSR’s defeat of Nazi Germany). At the police station, officials seized Skubak’s mobile phone.

On May 11, Skubak was arrested a sixth time, after two women approached him while he was picketing and unfurled a banner reading, “Stop the fifth column!” Skubak called the police to complain that the women were interfering with his one-man demonstration, but the officers arrested everyone, charging him with violating Russia’s public-assembly laws and then releasing him. The two women got the same treatment.

The next day, police arrested him a seventh time, again for picketing outside the Presidential Administration Building.

On May 14, members of the far-right SERB movement attacked Skubak outside the Presidential Administration Building, pouring yogurt over his head, while he waited with left-wing activist Sergey Udaltsov to meet with Presidential Human Rights Commission member Andrey Babushkin.

On May 16, a Moscow court postponed Skubak’s hearing on the “illegal uniform charges” until May 22. A day later, he’s expected in court again for charges related to his picket on May 11.

Olga Korelina

Translation by Veronika Goldinakova and Kevin Rothrock