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Sign reads: “I/WE = VORONTSOV”

Russian police stage online flashmob to support jailed community leader

Source: Mediazona
Sign reads: “I/WE = VORONTSOV”
Sign reads: “I/WE = VORONTSOV”
“Police Ombudsman” / VKontakte

Officers from the Russian Interior Ministry have launched an online flashmob in response to the imprisonment of Vladimir Vorontsov — the administrator of an online community known as “Police Ombudsman,” which publishes reports of abuse within the ministry. 

As part of the online flashmob, officers posted photos on social networks with the hashtag #СвободуВоронцову (“Freedom for Vorontsov”), the human rights outlet Mediazona reported. Most of these posts are anonymous; the officers either cover their faces or their photos simply show pieces of their uniforms or badges. Several officers are openly supporting Vorontsov, however, and a handful spoke to Mediazona

“Police Ombudsman” / VKontakte

“Many support Vladimir anonymously, due to the fact that police officers do not have the legal right to make any kind of criticism or express their personal point of view towards [state] agencies or official representatives,” one junior inspector told Mediazona. 

At state investigators' request, Moscow’s Tver District Court jailed Vorontsov on extortion charges on May 8. During his arraignment, Vorontsov insisted that the charges against him are “revenge for his community's activities to uphold the labor rights of the police’s rank-and-file officers.”

On May 11, Vorontsov was transferred from a temporary detention center to a Moscow hospital, his attorney, Sergey Badamshin, told the news agency Moskva. 

“At the [detention center], they said that an ambulance was called for Vladimir Vorontsov again last night, and that he was admitted to the hospital,” Badamshin said.

Badamshin previously reported that an ambulance was called to the detention center on May 8 because Vorontsov was suffering from high blood pressure. The ambulance did not take him to the hospital at that time. 

According to Interior Ministry investigators, Vorontsov tried to blackmail an ex-officer, supposedly demanding 300,000 rubles (more than $4,000) to stop him from releasing personal photos that were eventually published. Vorontsov has pleaded not guilty.