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Moscow police use force to disperse opposition picketers outside Federal Security Service HQ

Source: Meduza
Yuri Kadobnov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

At a demonstration against political repressions on March 14, Moscow police arrested nearly 50 protesters. Trying to navigate Russia’s strict rules on public assemblies, the activists staged a series of “one-person pickets” outside the Federal Security Service headquarters in the capital. According to the website OVD-Info, the authorities arrested 49 people, including three teenagers. The news website MBK Media reported 43 arrests, including the arrests of well-known opposition activists Sergey Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhaev, as well as 78-year-old human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov.

Officers drag a protester into a police van on March 14, 2020, outside the FSB HQ in Moscow.
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Officers beat several activists when arresting them. The police used force against demonstrators and concealed their faces with masks, refusing to identify themselves by their names or badge numbers. One adolescent protester suffered an asthma attack during his arrest and was denied medical attention. According to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, another demonstrator was removed from a police van and transferred to an ambulance. The detainees were later processed at four different police stations, where they were denied access to lawyers.

At Moscow’s Tagansky district police department, masked officers beat Lev Ponomaryov. Public defender Irina Yatsenko, who was also arrested at the demonstration, published footage of the attack on Ponomaryov. “They dragged me violently, hitting me in the face along the way,” Ponomaryov told MBK Media. He was later granted access to his lawyer, Vasily Kushnir. “We’ll see if they record the assault,” Ponomaryov told reporters.

Warning: the following video contains violence.

The activists staged Saturday’s pickets after the Mayor’s Office refused to permit a rally. Initially, the “Rupression” movement requested a permit to hold a demonstration and march in central Moscow to protest against new constitutional amendments and to support the defendants and prisoners in the “Network” case. City officials said they would only consider allowing the rally if it were moved to the Lyublino district, far from the city’s center. In response, activists decided to “cordon off” the FSB building in a human chain of protesters. According to the newspaper Kommersant, the picket was meant to repeat the first mass protest in the late USSR, when hundreds of people assembled in 1989 and stood together holding candles in a demonstration against political repression.

After police dispersed the picketers outside the FSB, some activists relocated to the presidential administration’s building, according to the “Agit Rossiya” movement. Another unpermitted rally is scheduled to take place later in the evening in Manezh Square near the Georgy Zhukov Monument, near Red Square.

Text by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock