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Read the Moscow government’s full decree opening a criminal rioting case against election protesters

Source: Meduza
Alexander Zemlyanichenko / AP / Scanpix / LETA

On July 27, thousands of protesters gathered in central Moscow to demand that opposition candidates be permitted to run for the city’s legislature. The local government did not grant a permit for the event, and police arrested more than 1,300 of the demonstrators, often through violent force. Three days later, Moscow’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case that human rights advocate Pavel Chikov called “a signal that the price of protest is now prison” and “a second bolotka.” The new case alleges that what occurred on July 27 and may occur again was not a peaceful protest but rather a set of violent “mass riots” punishable not by fines but by prison time. Those convicted of calling for the “riots” will face up to two years in prison, participants would receive three to eight, and organizers could be put behind bars for up to 15 years. As of this publication, six people had been charged in the case.

On August 1, Pavel Chikov obtained and posted a scan of the official decree that opened the mass riot case. In it, Major Vladimir Menshov of Moscow’s Investigative Committee alleges that “unidentified individuals” intentionally planned a riot that was “accompanied by armed resistance” under the guise of organizing an election protest. The section of the decree that explains those allegations is translated in full below.

Note: This translation preserves the syntax and diction of the original wherever possible. However, longer sentences have been split and highlighting has been added for the sake of your sanity.

No later than July 14, 2019, in unidentified circumstances, unidentified individuals acted with the aim of disrupting the security and ensuring the destabilization of sociopolitical circumstances in the Russian Federation. Using the Moscow City Election Commission’s refusal to register a number of individuals as candidates for Moscow City Duma seats due to election law violations as an excuse, [the aforementioned individuals] chose to organize mass riots accompanied by armed resistance to government officials on Moscow territory. With the same aim and in the same period of time, the individuals searched for others opposed to the current centers of governing power within the Russian Federation and pressed those other individuals to organize and participate in mass riots. [The individuals in question] developed a plan to carry out unlawful actions and discussed the time, place, and proceedings of the planned riots.

In the hope of increasing the number of participants who would attend the mass protest action, unidentified individuals acted within a premeditated conspiracy to prepare equipment and agitational materials for use during the course of the protest action. Using the “Internet” network, they conducted agitation operations, portraying the actions of the Moscow City Election Commission in a negative light and issuing calls to an undefined group of individuals urging participation in the mass protest action they had planned for July 27. The action, which was to take place outside Moscow City Hall (13 Tverskaya Street, Moscow) and in other locations throughout Moscow’s Central Administrative District, did not receive a permit from the executive government organs of the city of Moscow.

No later than 12:00 on July 27, unidentified individuals organized a gathering of no fewer than 3,500 participants for a protest action on Tverskaya Street and Pushkin Square in Moscow, where unidentified individuals organized participants into columns between 12:00 and 21:00 and directed them along the following route: Stoleshnikov, Gazetny, Bryusovsky, Leontyevsky, and Voznesensky Alleys; Arbat and Bolshaya Nikitskaya Streets; Teatralny Way, and other streets within the Central Administrative District of Moscow. In the process, [the individuals in question] committed egregious violations of the norms of social order as well as legal norms for conducting mass actions. They ignored the legal demands of government officials, i.e. police officers and Russian National Guard Officers, regarding the cessation of their illegal actions. Unidentified participants [in the action] called on those present to participate in mass riots that entailed insubordination to the legal demands of internal affairs employees and Russian National Guard employees. The participants also led by example, using their own illegal behavior to incite those present to commit the actions described above with the aim of committing mass riots, including violence toward government officials in connection with the actions those officials took in order to fulfill their legal duties.

In the same period and in the same locations, unidentified individuals succumbed to the illegal incitement [described above] and participated in the mass riots organized by the aforementioned individuals once those riots began. In the process, they ignored legal demands issued by government officials, i.e. police officers and Russian National Guard, who were fulfilling their duty to protect social order and public safety. The individuals applied physical force to break through police cordons, committed other illegal acts, and paralyzed traffic on Moscow’s Garden Ring by walking off of the sidewalk and into the road.

The unidentified participants of the riots prolonged their illegal actions by applying violence toward internal affairs employees and Russian National Guard employees. They used their hands and arms to strike the latter in the head area, threw rocks and bottles, and released tear gas from an aerosol spray instrument brought to the scene in advance.

There are indications of criminal activity in the actions of those unidentified individuals who organized mass riots accompanied by armed resistance to government officials, those unidentified individuals who participated in mass riots accompanied by armed resistance to government officials, and those unidentified individuals who called on others to participate. The criminal activities in question fall within the bounds of parts 1, 2, and 3 of Article 212 of the Criminal Codex of the Russian Federation.

Transcribed by Viktor Davydov and Mikhail Zelensky

Translated by Hilah Kohen

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