Discharged too soon Margarita Yudina, who was kicked by a policeman at a protest in St. Petersburg, was readmitted to a hospital
Amid the protest in St. Petersburg in support of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny on January 23, a police officer brutally kicked 54-year-old Margarita Yudina in the stomach. She fell and hit her head on the asphalt and ended up in intensive care, where she was treated for a severe head injury and a concussion. Yudina was discharged the next day, but was readmitted to hospital on January 26, after complaining of continued dizziness, headaches, and nausea. According to her lawyers, Yudina has now decided to press charges against the policeman who injured her for criminal abuse of authority.
Margarita Yudina, who was hospitalized after being kicked in the stomach by a policeman during protests in St. Petersburg on January 23, was readmitted to a hospital on January 26. The 54-year-old woman had been discharged two days earlier after being treated at a different hospital, but still complained of dizziness, headaches, and nausea. According to the human rights group “Team 29,” her condition deteriorated after representatives from the prosecutor’s office and social services came to see her to “explain her rights.” Her lawyer, Evgeny Smirnov, drove her to a hospital in St. Petersburg from her home in the town of Luga in the Leningrad region. The doctor who admitted her, “was very surprised that she had been discharged the day after receiving a head injury and concussion,” Team 29 reported. Her lawyer has not released the name of the hospital where she is being treated currently, saying that she needs to rest.
An online fundraiser to support Yudina is already underway. Team 29 said on its website that it is collecting donations to cover Yudina’s treatment, assistance for her family, legal support, and related expenses. The group, a volunteer organization of lawyers and journalists, noted that Yudina has three children, one of whom is disabled; her family lives off a monthly household income of just 10,000 rubles (about $133). A separate fundraising effort was announced on January 26 by two St. Petersburg municipal deputies, Kirill Volkov and Alexander Izotov, to help Yudina make payments on two loans totaling 120,000 rubles (approximately $1,600). Within 24 hours the deputies were able to collect more than 166,000 rubles (around $2,200). Volkov said one of the loans has already been paid off.
Yudina has decided to ask state investigators to initiate criminal proceedings against the policeman for abuse of authority, Team 29 said (this offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison). She also intends to sue the government for moral and material damages. Yudina told the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that the police didn’t try to take a statement from her and simply asked her to forgive the officer who hit her. “It’s still necessary for this case to have a legal outcome, not a melodramatic one,” Yudina said. She also wants the Investigative Committee to tell her the name of the officer who assaulted her. During her first hospitalization, a man who said his name was Kolya came to see her and apologized for hurting her, Yudina recalls. But she doesn’t know if that is his real name, and because he was wearing a surgical mask she couldn’t be sure he was the officer who kicked her. Team 29 plans to file a request with state investigators after collecting additional evidence, Smirnov said. At the same time, a petition calling for criminal proceedings against the police officer has already collected almost 10,000 signatures on the website change.org.
Government supporters have been standing up for the policeman who kicked Yudina. One of the first to speak out was doctor and television host Alexander Myasnikov. He wrote on Telegram that the officer, a member of the OMON riot police, did not perceive Yudina as a woman but simply as a potential threat. “He has a reflex, instilled by years of training,” Myasnikov wrote. Television and radio host Vladimir Solovyev said that Yudina hadn’t been beaten, but simply “pushed away with a foot to her stomach.” Yudina herself faces “many questions” because of her participation in the “forbidden rally,” he added. He called for a pay raise and the provision of housing for all the officers who had dispersed the protests, including the policeman who struck Yudina. The state-owned television network Rossiya 1 covered the attack but didn’t air the graphic footage showing the moment Yudina was kicked, the publication MBX Media noted.
State Duma deputies have also attempted to justify the policeman’s actions. After the attack, lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein had asked the Attorney General’s Office and the Investigative Committee to open a criminal case against the officer. But he said that “after discussing the situation in detail with the leadership of the Interior Ministry and the prosecutor’s office,” he decided to withdraw his request. Khinshtein said that in his view, Yudina had been the real threat. State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, meanwhile, said that the policeman had been prevented from performing his duties, but had realized afterwards that he “was wrong and apologized,” and believed his apology had been accepted. “Especially considering that the harm to her health wasn’t serious enough to require treatment, it seems fair to say that the law enforcement agencies and officers acted very responsibly,” Volodin said on January 26, shortly before Yudin was readmitted to a hospital.
Translation by Carol Matlack